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Emotional South Africa Plays On, Sweeps Group for Late President Mandela

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South Africa’s rugby sevens team rode a wave of emotion and answered supporters’ wishes for success by sweeping its pool games at its world series event on Saturday in the stadium named for the man who was on all their minds.

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was at its noisiest in the South Africa Sevens when the host team appeared for warmups and went on to defeat Group B rivals Canada (24-7), Spain (38-0) and Kenya (27-7) in succession. Mandela would have surely enjoyed it, just as he famously delighted in the Springboks’ famous rugby World Cup victory in 1995 or the country’s historic hosting of the 2010 football World Cup.

Blacks and whites waved their country’s colorful flag and loudly cheered scores by the dreadlocked Cecil Afrika and the team’s blond captain, Kyle Brown.

“It’s been a very emotional week, if not for South Africa then the entire world,” captain Kyle Brown said, apologizing that he wasn’t able to give — in his eyes — a more poetic tribute to former president Mandela. “There are elements there that we can use to drive us forward.”

South Africa, which hasn’t won its home event since 2008, faces Portugal in the quarterfinals today.

New Zealand, the defending champion opened its world series run with three convincing wins. England was failed to make the quarterfinals after falling to Argentina 21-19.

South Africa's Kyle Brown (R) celebrates his team's victory over England during their HSBC Sevens World Series Cup semi-final rugby match at The Sevens stadium in Dubai November 30, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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