The second place was due to defeat against the USA in the last play of their final pool match on Saturday, which not only snapped the Blitzboks’ unbeaten run of 36 matches leading up to the match, but the 12-7 defeat also ended an eight-game losing streak to South Africa for the USA.
Springbok Sevens coach, Neil Powell, was not happy about the overall performance of the day.
“We always knew that we would lose somewhere along the road, it was going to happen sometime or another,” said Powell.
“We also felt that it did not matter against who we conceded defeat, as long as it was not against ourselves, but a better team on the day. Sadly we did lose against ourselves today.
“We never managed more than two phases on attack and when you concede so much possession as we did against a team that is so effective on the counter attack as the USA, you will be in trouble. We learned that lesson today.”
Powell said the squad will have time to reflect on their shortcomings on the opening day and will have to come back stronger in the morning: “We did not play as well as we could and never really got going. So tomorrow's focus would be on ourselves and not Fiji.”
In the USA game, the Blitzboks hardly fired a shot in the first half. They conceded a number of penalties that allowed the Americans to kick into the corners and dominate field position. It was only a matter of time for that dominance to pay off and David Still, who easily bumped off a would-be tackler to score their first try, converted by Lucas Lacamp. That was also the only points of the half.
The second half continued in the same vein of conceding penalties, but improved handling saw the Blitzboks putting Ryan Oosthuizen over in the corner. Dewald Human kicked a superb conversion to draw scores level at 7-7 with a minute left to play.
However, the USA managed to get themselves into good field position and when Perry Baker was put in space, the speedster managed to score the match-winning try in the 15th minute of the match and with the clock in the red.
Earlier in pool play, the Blitzboks outplayed Kenya by four tries for their second successive win, which was also their 36th consecutive victory on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Three of those tries came in the opening four minutes of the match, with the South Africans delivering a clinical display of sevens rugby that left their African counterparts stunned.
Sako Makata, who went on to record his first hat-trick in the Blitzbok jersey, scored in the opening minute and from the restart Selvyn Davids scored. Makata was at it again a minute later and at 19-0, the lead was significant.
“It was great scoring three, but with guys like Selvyn on your inside, these things are possible,” Makata said.
The second half saw that lead extended when Makata got his third, this time going over in the corner after good build-ups to extend the lead to 26-0. Credit though to Kenya, who kept on coming back and they managed a try with the hooter going when Alvi Marube raced 70 meters to score.
The Blitzboks started the defence of their title on a winning note, beating Canada 31-5. It was a slow start for the South Africans though, as they fluffed an early scoring opportunity before allowing Canada's David Richard to race away for the opening try.
Ronald Brown instigated some structured play into their attack though, with two delightful foot passes finding JC Pretorius and Siviwe Soyizwapi in short succession to have his team 12-5 up at the break.
The second half was a better one for the Blitzboks, as they finished off some good tries, while keeping Canada out of the danger zone. Darren Adonis scored soon after he joined off the bench and two late tries, both converted by Dewald Human, eased the South Africans home.
They face Fiji at 06h50 (SA time) on Sunday. Australia and Argentina will clash in the first quarter-final (06h28) before New Zealand and Samoa (07h12) and USA and Ireland (07h34) will also battle for a place in the last four.
South Africa have won three of their last four matches against Fiji in Singapore. In 2017, they won 29-14 in a 5th place semi-final; in 2018 they won 12-10 in the Cup semi-final and in 2019 won 20-19 in the final, after losing to Fiji in their pool match by 17-7. The last time these teams met was in Los Angeles in 2020, when South Africa won the final 29-24.
South Africa 31 (12), Canada 5 (5)
South Africa – Tries: JC Pretorius (2), Siviwe Soyizwapi, Darren Adonis, Selvyn Davids. Conversions: Ronald Brown, Dewald Human (2).
Canada – Try: David Richard.
South Africa 26 (19), Kenya 5 (0)
South Africa – Tries: Sako Makata (3), Selvyn Davids. Conversions: Ronald Brown (3).
Kenya – Try: Alvi Marube.
South Africa 7 (0), USA 12 (7)
South Africa – Try: Ryan Oosthuizen. Conversion: Dewald Human.
USA – Tries: David Still, Perry Baker. Conversion: Lucas Lacamp.