South Africa have continued New Zealand’s history of heartbreak in Las Vegas with a 14-7 win in the final.
The loss also means South Africa have taken New Zealand’s place as the IRB world series leader as the tournament heads to Wellington for the fifth leg.
It is the fourth Cup final loss for coach Gordon Tietjens since the American leg of the series moved to Vegas.
And though the final was closer than last year’s 40-21 thumping, it will be a major confidence boost for South Africa, whose defence proved the trump card at Sam Boyd Stadium.
When Scott Curry scored early in the final it was just the second try the South Africans had conceded over the three day tournament.
It proved to be the last.
Branco du Preez leveled the scores at 7-7 on the stroke of halftime and when Gillies Kaka overcooked a lineout after the break Werner Kok was over in the corner.
Cecil Afrika converted from the sideline and neither side budged for the remainder of a tense final.
Tietjens thoughts will now move to Wellington and possibly to appealing the nine match suspension for eye gouging which kept Canterbury’s Sam Dickson out of today’s final.
South Africa hold a one point lead at the top of the IRB world series ladder on 78 points, clear of New Zealand, with Fiji third followed by England, Samoa and Australia.
Canada secured rare points in beating Samoa 22-19 in the playoff for third and fourth, while England edged Australia 26-24 in the plate final.
Earlier today a brace to Bryce Heem and further tries to Curry and Tim Mikkelson helped the Kiwis predictably beat Canada 24-7 in the semifinals.
South Africa blanked Samoa 14-0 in their semifinal after conceding just one try in pool play to Kenya.
New Zealand were without back George Tilsley for the semifinal and Dickson, but were always fancied to reach the final.
Canada made the perfect start in the semifinal when Philip Mack won a turnover and scored the easiest of tries, but New Zealand responded in typical fashion.
Curry found space to tie the scores with a converted try and then as they have all tournament the Kiwis scored on the stroke of halftime, Heem trotting under the posts to make it 12-7.
After the break Mikkelson strode in under the posts him under the posts before Heem guaranteed the win with his second near full-time.
South Africa had to work hard to beat Samoa, Chris Dry scoring the first try after the halftime hooter for a 7-0 lead.
Sampie Mastriet scored under posts as he pulled his hamstring early in the second before the two sides resumed their hard hitting defensive efforts.
South Africa 14 (Branco du Preez, Werner Kok tries, Cecil Afrika 2 cons) New Zealand 7 (Scott Curry try, Gillies Kaka con). HT: 7-7
Series standings (top six)
South Africa 78, New Zealand 77, Fiji 56, England 53, Samoa 47, Australia 46
- © Fairfax NZ News