The Blitzboks bounced back from a shock loss to France to beat Japan and the USA on day one of the Wellington Sevens.
Needing to beat the USA by four points in their final pool match to qualify for the Cup quarter-finals, the Blitzboks made a poor start when speedster Perry Baker scored an early try. But South Africa struck back immediately with Seabelo Senatla dotting down for his 22nd try of the season.
The Blitzboks extended their lead a minute before the break when Branco du Preez crossed the tryline in the right-hand corner only to pass inside to Kwagga Smith, who was able to score under the posts and make the conversion an easy one. However, Baker broke away from the restart to level the scores at 14-14.
Cecil Afrika put the Blitzboks in front again early in the second half, although TV replays suggested he may have been held up over the line and didn't ground the ball. Branco du Preez kicked the drop-goal conversion from a difficult angle.
Smith then sealed the win for South Africa when he shrugged off two poor tackles and scored with 35 seconds remaining to make it 26-14.
Earlier in the day, the Blitzboks suffered a shock 22-5 defeat to France, before claiming a 24-5 win over Japan, with Senatla, Werner Kok, Warwick Gelant and Phillip Snyman scoring tries.
Saturday's Cup quarter-finals:
02:28 – USA vs Scotland
02:49 – Fiji vs England
03:10 – Kenya vs South Africa
03:31 – New Zealand vs Australia
Photo: Marty Melville/AFP Photo