South Africa achieved a Dubai double in an unbeaten start to the rugby sevens world series after edging Australia 10-7 in the final on Saturday.
The South Africans have won four tournaments in a row — the two in September that constituted the shortened 2021 series, and the two Dubai Sevens opening the 2022 series over the last two weekends, making up for the canceled South Africa Sevens.
They extended their team-record match-winning streak to 24 after being pushed to the brink in the semifinals and final.
JC Pretorius scored the clinching tries in both. In the semifinal against France, at 12-12 with seconds to go, Pretorius took an angled run at the French and slipped out of the tackle of Ethan Dumortier and skipped away to the line. South Africa won 19-12 with the conversion.
The final was even tighter.
Siviwe Soyizwapi went over for South Africa in the first minute, and Corey Toole replied in the fifth for Australia to lead 7-5 at halftime. With two minutes to go, Pretorius took ruck ball and beat Ben Dowling with a step off his right foot to break through and score.
“We came into this tournament only with 11 players. A lot of guys thought we’re only here to survive but we came here to thrive,” Pretorius said.
They became the first team to win three successive Dubai titles since New Zealand in 2002. New Zealand and Samoa are absent from the series because of travel restrictions.
New Zealand and Australia would normally host the next legs, but they were canceled in the pandemic and replaced by two legs in Spain, in Malaga and Seville over the last two weekends of January.