Cameras were drawn to the sizable presence of Iowa-raised actor Jason Momoa as the “Aquaman” star cheered on the New Zealand team at the Vancouver Sevens Sunday.
Sporting an old-school All Blacks jersey, the passionate Momoa watched New Zealand beat Argentina and England on the final day of play to finish fifth, while South Africa defeated France in the showpiece match to earn the Blitzboks their first title of the season.
Momoa, who was born in Hawaii but raised in Norwalk, Iowa, has previously spoken of his family’s Kiwi heritage, revealing in an interview last year that he felt “so connected to Aotearoa [the Maori name for New Zealand] on a higher level.”
He later posed for photos with the New Zealand team, which earlier in the tournament suffered a shock first-time defeat by Spain.
Of the All Blacks’ 26-19 win over England, he said: “That was so epic, that was an amazing game.
“I’m super happy. I bleed All Blacks. I’m just super happy that the guys pulled it off.
“It’s the ultimate sport to me. There are no pads. Growing up in America we didn’t have it as much, I played more hockey. But then when I went down and lived in Australia and New Zealand, it [became] my favorite.”
Blitzboks off the mark
South Africa and France had never previously met in a World Sevens Series final, with France appearing in its first gold medal match since December 2012.
Pierre Gilles Lakafia opened the scoring for Les Bleus before the Blitzboks hit back with tries from Impi Visser, Selvyn Davids and Werner Kok.
Stephen Parez’s late try was merely a consolation for France as the match ended 21-12, moving defending champion South Africa up to fourth in the overall standings.
“It was a much-needed win for our team and I think the boys played some fantastic rugby throughout the tournament. Hopefully we can build on this one now,” said captain Phil Snyman.
“There’s a lot of talent in this group and back home and I can’t wait to see everyone together as it was only a matter of time before this team started to gel. They showed glimpses this week of what they can do and I believe there is a strong squad coming through.”
Few could have foreseen France going as far as it did in Vancouver, having not progressed past the quarterfinal stage of a World Series event since 2016.
The second-place finish is a significant one for a country whose national rugby teams have recently come under heavy criticism. Indeed, as France’s sevens players recorded resounding victories over Samoa and USA, some 7,000 kilometers away in Dublin their 15-a-side counterparts were well beaten by Ireland in the Six Nations.
“It’s our spirit, it’s our confidence,” said head coach Jerome Daret, reflecting on his side’s change in fortunes having picked up just a single point in Las Vegas the previous week. “We must work on our consistency, but we’re improving. It’s a good thing for our future.”
Fiji finished third after defeating USA 24-14 in the bronze medal match. The Eagles, despite suffering their worst results of the season so far, remain at the top of the overall standings.
Australia, meanwhile, beat home favorite Canada 35-21 to lift the Challenge trophy.
The World Series resumes in Hong Kong on April 5 for what is traditionally seen as the season’s premier tournament.