Australia have a first world sevens series tournament success in four years in their sights after outsmarting South Africa to make the final of the Sydney 7s.
The Thunderbolts booked a rematch with New Zealand, who stole a 17-all pool draw on Saturday, in the Sunday night decider at Allianz Stadium with their 12-7 semi-final upset of the Blitzboks.
Knowing they gave away a speed and size advantage against the series-leading South Africans, Australia pulled a few unconventional tricks to surprise the favourites.
They tactically kicked long more than once and wily playmaker James Stannard produced two pivotal plays with the boot, including one for his own try before halftime for a 12-0 lead.
“I thought what was good was that they were smart and took that physical edge away from South Africa,” said coach Andy Friend.
South Africa hit back after the break with a try to Kwagga Smith but when Smith was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Henry Speight soon after, the Aussies were virtually assured of victory.
A win over their ANZAC rivals would give world No.5-ranked Australia their first tournament success since winning in Tokyo in 2012.
It would be a huge confidence boost on the road to the Rio Olympics and also cap a highly successful inaugural Sydney tournament.
Their last series triumph on home soil was at Ballymore in 2002 when Mat Rogers and Wendell Sailor made their international rugby debuts.
“The last two games we’ve played I don’t think we’ve reached our potential so knowing we can string 14 minutes of clinical footy together is really exciting,” said captain Ed Jenkins.
New Zealand booked their place in the final thanks to a thrilling 14-12 win over a fast-finishing Fiji in a spiteful semi-final.
Sonny Bill Williams was singled out for plenty of attention by the defending world series champions but also gave as good as he received.
Akira Ioane, rated by many as the most dangerous player in the game, put the All Black Sevens up 14-0 early in the second half with a bruising run to the line.
The Fijians hit back with two tries and had the ball in the last minute but the NZ defence pressured them into error to survive the late onslaught.