South Africa’s men and Great Britain’s women played some supreme rugby over two weekends as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series returned in Canada.
The Blitzboks won 12 matches out of 12 in Vancouver and Edmonton to wrap up the 2021 Series title, beating Great Britain’s men in the final on Sunday.
Great Britain’s women, meanwhile, secured their second successive Fast Four title in Edmonton as Jasmine Joyce scored a hat-trick in the second successive showpiece match.
Below we recap the journey both teams took to glory over the past fortnight.
South Africa’s march to the Series title began at BC Place with a 53-0 defeat of Mexico, in which Angelo Davids scored four of his side’s nine tries.
Spain and Kenya were then beaten on day one as the Blitzboks racked up a further 67 points and conceded only 21.
Angelo Davids once again came to the fore in the quarter-finals on day two, running in a hat-trick of tries as South Africa were reunited with Spain and subsequently ran out 54-5 winners.
He then touched down within a minute of kick-off in the semi-final against Great Britain. However, after their opponents had recovered to lead 12-7 at the break, it was Zain Davids who made sure of South Africa’s passage to the final as he scored twice late on.
Pool A rivals Kenya had booked their own place in the showpiece match with a 38-5 win against Ireland, but would lose the final by the same score.
Two tries from Angelo Davids in the opening five minutes set the tone and confirmed him as the first men’s player to score 10 tries in a single Series event since France’s Terry Bouhraoua at Cape Town in 2017.
South Africa led 24-0 at half-time, and converted tries from Ronald Brown and Darren Adonis put the seal on victory in the second half.
“I am really proud of the boys,” Blitzboks captain Siviwe Soyizwapi said. “After a disappointing Olympic campaign, coming here we really tried to lick our wounds and put up a fight.
“I am so grateful we could come up with the victory. Hopefully, all Africans were proud today.”
The Blitzboks were joined on top of the podium by Great Britain’s women, whose campaign in Vancouver also began with a victory against Mexico, Grace Crompton scoring two of her side’s seven tries in a 39-0 win.
Crompton sat out Great Britain’s next match as tries from Joyce, Heather Cowell and Amy Wilson Hardy either side of half-time set them on their way to a 19-5 defeat of the hosts.
Victory set up a winner takes all clash with the USA for top spot heading into day two, and it was the Europeans who came out on top. Co-captains Abbie Brown and Megan Jones each scored two tries in a 41-12 triumph.
Mexico again provided the opposition in the semi-finals, and were beaten 43-0, before a second meeting with the USA in the final.
Joyce stole the show for Great Britain, scoring a hat-trick of tries and producing a lung-busting defensive effort to deny Jaz Gray a score.
The USA trailed by only two points late in the first half, but the exploits of Joyce as well as scores from Emma Uren, Crompton and Wilson Hardy underlined Great Britain’s dominance in Vancouver to seal a 34-12 win.
“It was so fun to be out there,” Joyce said following the final. “Coming back here and playing sevens was phenomenal. The crowd was absolutely fantastic.”
CHAMPIONS DOUBLE UP IN EDMONTON
Angelo Davids’ exploits in Vancouver had come at a cost, and ahead of the second event in Edmonton it was confirmed that he would be ruled out due to a hand fracture.
Luckily for South Africa coach Neil Powell, however, he was able to fill the void with experienced playmaker Selvyn Davids, whose own hopes of playing in Vancouver had been scuppered by injury.
Mexico again provided the opposition in South Africa’s opening match at Commonwealth Stadium, as they had done at BC Place, and the Blitzboks ran in eight tries to win 56-0.
Muller du Plessis and Soyizwapi each scored a brace of tries in a 43-5 defeat of Hong Kong before the former grabbed a hat-trick to help his side round off the opening day in Edmonton with a 49-0 win against hosts Canada.
South Africa had conceded only five points, against Hong Kong, in topping Pool A but their defence wasn’t breached when the teams met in the quarter-finals. Captain Soyizwapi touched down twice as his side won 46-0.
The semi-final was a repeat of the men’s final in Vancouver and Du Plessis and Soyizwapi both continued their try-scoring form, each touching down twice in a 33-7 win.
Victory set up an encounter with Great Britain and it was the European side that struck first, Robbie Fergusson exploiting the space created by Selvyn Davids’ yellow card.
South Africa recovered to score four unanswered tries either side of half-time, shared equally by Du Plessis and Soyizwapi, and confirm a 24-12 victory and the Series title.
Du Plessis and Soyizwapi, meanwhile, had scored 11 and 10 tries in Edmonton respectively, while the Blitzboks had conceded only 12 across both events in Canada.
In the Fast Four tournament, Joyce picked up where she left off in Vancouver, scoring twice as Great Britain beat Mexico 43-0 to kick off their title defence in style.
The Welshwoman scored again in the second minute of her side’s second match against Canada, but Olivia De Couvreur’s try on the stroke of half-time, and Olivia Apps’ conversion, secured a 7-7 draw.
It was the first match Great Britain’s women had failed to win in Vancouver or Edmonton, but they bounced back in their next match as Heather Cowell’s score at the end of the second half put the seal on a 29-19 defeat of the USA.
Victory ensured they went into the semi-finals as top seeds once again, and Cowell and Joyce each scored a brace of tries in a 50-5 defeat of Mexico on day two.
The USA were once again Great Britain’s opponents in the final, and Joyce reprised her role of match-winner, scoring a hat-trick of tries to put her side 17-0 up early in the second half.
Gray gave the USA a glimmer of hope with time running out, but Wilson Hardy put the seal on a 22-5 win, Great Britain’s ninth in 10 matches in Canada.
Joyce finished with 10 tries in Edmonton and 16 in nine matches in the Series overall, six more than Gray in second.
“To play alongside these girls has been fantastic, to come away with back-to-back wins is incredible," Joyce said.
"Credit to all of the girls. We have had so much fun and literally every one of us is living the dream.”