Samoa were 26-7 down at halftime, but an inspired comeback after the break saw them score three tries without reply to reduce the deficit to 26-24.
They were trailing by two points after Siaosi Asofolau scored with three minutes to go, but skipper Selesele produced the big moment when he crashed over for the 50th try of his career.
Fiji launched one final attack, but Samoa’s Belgium Tuatagaloa put in a massive tackle on the line to force a knock-on as time elapsed to secure victory.
But Fiji virtually wrapped up the World Series title anyway as they collected 19 log points for ending second. They lead South Africa by 14 points heading into the final tournament of the season in London next weekend after the Springbok Sevens ended off their Paris Sevens campaign in fine style by beating Australia 17-7 in the Plate Final.
Rosko Specman was the stand-out player once again for the Blitzboks as he rewarded coach Neil Powell’s confidence in recalling him to the team after he sat out the Hong Kong and Singapore legs.
Dylan Sage opened the scoring for the Blitzboks after an excellent catch and offload by Seabelo Senatla, but Australia hit back when a kick was charged-down and Boyd Killingworth raced away to put his team 7-5 ahead.
Senatla, who topped the Paris try-scorers’ list with 10, nearly scored his 11th of the weekend when he attempted an intercept five metres out, but just couldn’t hold on. Specman went close as well, but was brought down just short of the line.
Regular captain Kyle Brown made the breakthrough just before halftime when Sage took a quick tap penalty and offloaded at just the right time to put Brown over.
At 12-7 ahead at halftime, the South African’s didn’t concede again, with Specman finishing things off by bursting through from a Francois Hougaard pass.
But it will be their 29-19 Plate semi-final victory over New Zealand earlier in the day that would give coach Neil Powell the most satisfaction out of what was ultimately a disappointing outcome at the Stade Jean Bouin.
The Blitzboks were stunned 21-10 by Samoa in the Cup quarter-final, which has practically ended their chances of overhauling Fiji at the top of the World Series standings.
The South Africans adopted a different approach against Samoa by trying to challenge the islanders’ physicality, but the ploy never worked as quick men such as Senatla and Specman were no match in the collisions against the bigger Samoans.
The Blitzboks should’ve stuck to their quick-paced game where they stretch the defences and create space for Senatla and Specman. That is exactly what they did against New Zealand five tries to three to win 29-19, and against Australia in the Plate final.
“Fiji have shown consistency throughout the season. They need to slip up for us to have a chance to get the number one spot, but they are a quality side, so they will probably take the series,” Powell told the World Rugby website on Sunday.
“We will come back next week and keep on fighting. We’ve had two good wins in the last two games, against New Zealand and then Australia. It’s been a fantastic tournament and there’s been a great vibe in the stadium.”
The Blitzboks will hope to finish their season strongly ahead of the Rio Olympics, at next week’s London Sevens, where the likes of Justin Geduld and Frankie Horne could return from injury.
South Africa were drawn in Pool A with Samoa, USA and Canada.
South Africa – Tries: Dylan Sage, Kyle Brown, Rosko Specman. Conversion: Cecil Afrika (1).
Australia – Try: Boyd Killingworth. Conversion: James Stannard (1).
Original source: Samoa power to Paris Sevens title