LOS ANGELES, United States, Mar 2 – Sakoyisa Makata scored in extra-time as South Africa fought back from 19-0 down to defeat Fiji 29-24 and claim victory in the Los Angeles leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series on Sunday.
Makata’s sudden-death winner completed an extraordinary comeback for the Blitzboks, who also trailed 24-12 with just over a minute to go against the Fijians.
Fiji, chasing back-to-back tournament wins following their victory at the Sydney Sevens last month, looked to be on course for the title after storming into an early lead at the Dignity Health Sports Park.
The South Pacific islanders powered into the lead with Vilimoni Botitu scoring the opening try in the first minute.
Sevuloni Mocenacagi extended Fiji’s lead before Napolioni Bolaca made it 19-0 with South Africa looking ragged.
But Stedman Gans pulled a try back for South Africa on the stroke of half-time to make it 19-7 at the break.
Selvyn Davids then scored soon after the restart to cut the Fiji lead to 19-12.
However a sweeping length-of-the-field attack from Fiji which ended with Jerry Tuwai dotting down in the corner restored the islanders’ 12-point cushion at 24-12 with just over a minute remaining.
South Africa rallied again though and Chris Day’s try made it 24-17.
With the seconds ticking down, South Africa then waived the conversion attempt in order to take a quick restart and the decision paid off when they regained possession from the kick-off.
Branco DuPreez scored wide out on the left and then nervelessly banged over the drop-kick conversion to make it 24-24 to set up sudden-death and Makata’s moment of glory.
“The guys just made so many basic errors in the first half and we paid for it,” South Africa coach Neil Powell said.
“But they were unbelievable after halftime. The guys just focused and kept believing in the system.
“The guys know exactly what to do. We said just believe in the system and the system will help you out.”
The Fijians, who had thumped England 26-5 in the quarter-finals, had swept into the final with a dazzling semi-final display against Australia, turning on the style in a 43-7 rout.
Aminiasi Tuimaba scored a brace while Sevuloni Mocenacagi produced a sublime no-look offload to set up a superb try for Jerry Tuwai as the Australians were swatted aside.
South Africa had advanced to the final after a clinical 17-0 victory over 2018 World Cup champions New Zealand in the semi-finals.
Flying wing Angelo Davids set the Blitzboks on the way to victory with two first half tries before a well-worked effort from Werner Kok extended the South African lead just after half-time.