Starmers: Everything you could wish for in SA
In his latest column for irbsevens.com, TV commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith looks back on an enthralling Nelson Mandela Bay South Africa Sevens, a first in Port Elizabeth.
It was everything you could have wished for from a first tournament.
Not just the final, which was an epic, but the whole setting of the stadium, which was perfect with a fantastic crowd and just how wonderfully organised it was. It will all go down in the memory.
Of course South Africa getting through to the final helped make the day and ensured the 30,000 fans in Port Elizabeth were quite brilliant until the end.
And then the final itself, which will go down in history. It was breathtaking. One cries almost for the hosts because they were desperate to win and take their first Cup title of the season but it just wasn't meant to be.
It was a wonderful example, a classic of its kind - it went one way then the other. Fifty points on the board at 26-24 and one thought South Africa would complete their fairytale, and they so nearly did. But it didn't matter that they didn't because it was a superb contest between two superb sides.
There may have been 30,000 here, but next year it will be full! How could people not want to come back and also tell their mates to come along? I am sure the world in radio and television will realise what a fantastic sport this is.
Also, what it showed is that New Zealand are never beaten, they simply never give up. They looked as though they were out and done for but in the last dramatic few seconds they turned it over with the try and appropriately the magician of the New Zealand side, Tomasi Cama, scored his 100th try in the World Series.
No sport like Sevens
Not many teams could come back like New Zealand did. One sensed having lost to Fiji in the Gold Coast, then England beating them in Dubai, you knew Gordon Tietjens would be absolutely determined, and his team, who had obviously been given an extra rocket. He knew he had to get on the board in the first three tournaments, and how determined they were.
As a champion team, they have strength in depth, strength in fitness. They never give in and they are never beaten. Somehow Tietjens knows how to organise his players to get them into the motivational space that saw them through to the final.
We look forward now to Wellington in February and it could really be any one of the top eight winning there. The problem is now that those top teams are not satisfied with anything but a Cup final.
You saw the disappointment for England and you saw Samoa bounce back in this tournament. Fiji were walloped by Wales, but they weren't really there, and they didn't take part. It was one sided, but their heads were down, they had missed out and they wanted to continue where they left off in Gold Coast.
I half expect them to be as good as that when we come back to Wellington, to play that quality of rugby. For these teams nothing is satisfying except for a Cup final and you now have France also thinking they are back in the top echelon.
You look at the top two in each of the pools for Wellington and I would not dare to say who could win - and that is fabulous. There is no sport in the world which has the uncertainty of who is going to win the prize like in Sevens.
See you in 2012...
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