The Blitzboks started their defence of the HSBC LA Sevens on a disappointing note when they were outplayed 21-7 by the USA in their opening pool clash at Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, before they bounced back with a 22-17 win over Canada.
However, a 17-14 defeat to New Zealand demoted the defending LA and World Series title holders to also rans in 2022.
The effort from the South Africans lacked their traditional spark and with Dewald Human getting injured against the USA and Zain Davids against Canada, it was clear that the day was not going their way.
The USA held a 14-0 lead at the break and then extended it to 21-0 before a late Blitzbok try offered some hope to the SA side, who needed to finish in the top four if they wanted to win the 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The hosts dominated possession and without the ball, the South Africans were forced to make a lot of tackles, not all of them successful, allowing the home team to dot down early. Shaun Williams was shown a yellow card and playing with only six men, they conceded another try just before the break.
Perry Baker blitzed the Blitzboks early in the second half to push the lead out to 21 points, before a try to Sako Makata, converted by Williams, gave the SA team some hope, but they ran out of time.
“We did not use the opportunities” said captain, Siviwe Soyizwapi afterwards.
"We did not make the tackles we needed to and made mistakes when we had the ball on the few occasions, we had it. We did not want to start like this, this was not a good start for us.”
Against Canada, South Africa started strongly and set the tone from the start. Muller du Plessis scored in the opening minute, Soyizwapi two minutes later and JC Pretorius just before the break. Du Plessis ran a great line, Soyizwapi finished off a flowing move from a line-out and Pretorius used great strength and power to get past the Canadian defence.
The second half was not the best for the South Africans though as Canada scored early and although Soyizwapi got a second to ease the gap, the Canadians scored again to close the gap, but their third try came too late.
South Africa, who had to beat New Zealand by 12 points to get into the Cup quarter-finals, did not start well in that match either.
They conceded three tries in the first half to trail 17-0 before they finally showed some grit and grunt, scoring through James Murphy and Shilton van Wyk, but the two converted tries were not enough to overhaul their opponents in black.
USA 21 (14), South Africa 7 (0)
USA - Tries: David Still, Joe Schroeder, Perry Baker. Conversions: Lucas Lacamp (3).
South Africa - Try: Sako Makata. Conversion: Shaun Williams.
South Africa 22 (17), Canada 17 (5)
South Africa - Tries: Muller du Plessis, Siviwe Soyizwapi (2), JC Pretorius. Conversion: Darren Adonis.
Canada - Tries: Josiah Morra, Brock Webster, Anton Ngongo. Conversion: Cooper Coats.
New Zealand 17 (17), South Africa 14 (0)
New Zealand - Tries: Akuila Rokolisoa, Che Clarke, Lewis Ormond. Conversion: Rokolisoa.
South Africa - Tries: James Murphy, Shilton van Wyk. Conversions: Branco du Preez, Shaun Wiliams.