The Blitzboks will now face Argentina in their final Pool B clash at 23h26 (SA time) to determine their fate for the remainder of the tournament, but they will be confident of reaching the quarter-finals, to be played from 05h37 (SA time) on Sunday morning.
Springbok Sevens captain Siviwe Soyizwapi, who scored two tries apiece in each of their games, said the team’s upward curve on day one was important.
“We realised at half time of the France game, being 19-0 down, that we needed to wake up quickly. We did so in time and took that momentum into the Japan game,” he explained.
Against France, the Blitzboks started poorly, allowing their opponents to score three times, with a number of basic errors hampering their efforts. The second half proved to be much better, despite losing Ronald Brown to injury.
Ricardo Duarttee scored four minutes from time to cut the lead to 12 points before tries by Soyizwapi in the 12th and 15th minutes brought the Blitzboks within two points. Duarttee slotted a tight conversion from the touchline to level matters in the last play of the match.
“We realised we needed to keep it simple and do the basics very well, and that worked in that second half and against Japan,” said Soyizwapi.
The captain scored from the kick-off, and tries by Impi Visser and Christie Grobbelaar extended the Blitzboks' lead. Soyizwapi rounded off the half with his second try which saw the South Africans take a 26-0 lead.
Soyizwapi rediscovered his try-scoring groove on Friday and also led from the front. His team-mates moved the ball in his direction well and he had 10 carries, with the four line breaks resulting in a try every time.
Credit to Japan, who came back well in the second half to score twice in quick succession after Duarttee scored from the restart to extend the lead to 33-0. The final act of the match belonged to the two debutants, with Noegh Hayward getting his first try and Gurshwin Wehr kicking his first conversion.
Soyizwapi praised the two new players and said the Blitzboks' focus is now only on the pool decider against Argentina.
"The new guys did well, especially after we lost Ronald because they needed to step up," he said.
"It is sad that Ronald is out of the tournament, but that gave the two new guys chance to show what they can do.
"Argentina are on form, they are having a good season. We need to focus on our game and make sure we improve all the time, then we should be okay."
Hayward was beaming after making his debut and scoring his first try, much to the delight of his team-mates.
“It was a great feeling to play that first match and to then score the first try," said Hayward.
"Our team culture is such that we celebrate milestones together, so the guys were really happy for me. That was great. I was just at the right place at the right time, so I could show what I can do."
South Africa 40 (26), Japan 12 (0)
SA - Tries: Siviwe Soyizwapi (2), Christie Grobbelaar, Impi Visser, Ricardo Duarttee, Noegh Hayward. Conversions: Duarttee (4), Gurshwin Wehr.
Japan - Tries: Yoshihiro Noguchi, Kippei Taninaka. Conversion: Taiga Ishida.
South Africa (0) 19, France 19 (19)
SA - Tries: Ricardo Duarttee, Siviwe Soyizwapi (2). Conversions: Duarttee (2).
France - Tries: Theo Forner (2), Leraitre Paul. Conversions: Stephen Parez, Edo Martin.