WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Joe Webber scored a try after the siren to lift New Zealand over South Africa 24-21 in Sunday's final of the Wellington leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series, defending the title won on home soil last year.
Webber also scored in extra time to give New Zealand a win over South Africa in pool play.
New Zealand beat Kenya 33-0 in Sunday's quarterfinals and England 22-5 in the semifinals while South Africa defeated Australia 26-14 and World Series leader Fiji 31-0.
South Africa was on course for victory when it led 21-7 just after halftime but Reiko Ioane scored twice in the second half and Webber crossed with the last play of the match.
"We talked about it the whole week, we needed a lot of heart and a lot of ticker," New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson said. "We talked about putting the mana (pride) back in the jersey after the last couple of tournaments and that's really what we wanted to do this weekend."
Things weren't going New Zealand's way in the final from the moment All Blacks superstar Sonny Bill Williams fumbled the opening kickoff, giving South Africa a long early possession. That led to tries by Philip Snyman and Rosco Speckman which gave South Africa a 14-0 lead after five minutes.
New Zealand appeared over-anxious with its few scraps of possession but it managed to compose itself and to score a vital try through Akira Ioane just before halftime.
South Africa extended the lead to 21-7 when Seabelo Senatia scored the opening try of the second half.
New Zealand continued to play erratically but the match turned in its favor when Speckman was sin-binned in the seventh minute of the second half.
Ioane scored twice in his absence and New Zealand dragged itself back into the match at 21-19.
Regan Ware then made two vital plays in the dying moments of the match, first making a tackle deep in his own half to stop a seemingly certain South African try, then kept the ball alive near the South Africa goal line to create the last chance for Webber.
New Zealand came into its home tournament in seventh place in the World Series standings after being ravaged by injuries in the first two tournaments at Dubai and Cape Town. Sunday's win thrust it back into Series contention but, more importantly, restated its challenge to South Africa and Fiji for the gold medal at this year's Olympics.
South Africa leads the Series standings by two points from Fiji which beat England 24-12 in the playoff for third place. New Zealand moved up to third ahead of next weekend's leg in Sydney.