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South Africa triumphs in rugby sevens

posted on 30/11/2008: 1859 views

South Africa brought the curtain down on the finest Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens in the tournament's 39-year history, with victory over England in last night's final.

The event was the first to be held at the Middle East's new rugby headquarters, named The Sevens, and attracted the largest audience for the seven-a-side tournament.

More than 100,000 people attended over Friday and Saturday, including 2,000 players from all over the world.

This year's edition of the competition had been seen as a dry run for the 2009 IRB Rugby Sevens World Cup, a 24-team tournament which will be staged in the emirate next March.

The tournament was the first time The Sevens had opened its gates to visitors. The ground was built in 423 days after the previous venue, the Dubai Exiles in Al Awir, was knocked down to make way for the Meydan project.

Donal Kilalea, the tournament director, said: "It has been an unqualified success, from an attendance point of view and in terms of the fact this is a new site.

"We have been able to test everything, which is great. We have learnt a lot. This venue is brand new. We had planned it on the strength of sevens rugby in the region, and Emirates have built it around the fact it is going to host the Dubai Sevens and the Sevens World Cup.

"It is only when you run an event that you work out there are certain issues that you have to deal with. There are things we can improve on, but there is nothing that has failed us over the past three days.”

The Hong Kong Sevens has long been established as the most popular event in the IRB Sevens World Series.

However, the capacity at the UAE's new venue, which comprises one permanent, 10,000-seater grandstand supplemented by temporary, scaffolding stands exceeds that of Hong Kong Stadium.

The attendance was in excess of 50,000 on both days of the weekend, and Kilalea said he believed that the event now deserved to be considered number one in the world.

"I would not like to be cocky, but we certainly have more numbers than Hong Kong,” he said. "Hong Kong and Dubai are very different. What we tried to do was make it bigger and better than the Exiles.

"I am hopeful that we have managed to keep the same feel as at the Exiles, and a lot of people have been kind enough to say it feels like the Sevens. It would have been a disappointment to me if we hadn't been able to achieve that.”

South Africa claimed back the Emirates International Trophy, which they last won in 2006, by way of a 19-12 victory in the final over their regular rivals, England.

With a large expatriate backing, the two nations are always the best supported in Dubai, but they served up a final to thrill rugby followers of all nationalities.

Ryno Benjamin scored the winning try in injury time for Paul Treu's side, after England had mounted a rousing comeback in the second-half. – The National


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