South Africa lost 33-26 to Fiji in the Cup final of the Tokyo Sevens but earned enough points to go past New Zealand at the top of the World Series log.
The Blitzboks now have 116 points, with New Zealand second with 114. Fiji (95) and England (85) are next, with three tournaments remaining this season.
This was an epic final that was only decided in the last few seconds, when an overhead pass from Pio Tuwai to Waisea Nacuqu saw the speedster score a 60m try.
The Blitzboks had fallen behind 12-0 early in the final, but tries from Kyle Brown, Stephan Dippenaar and Justin Geduld gave them a 19-12 lead, although Fiji scored just before the break to level the scores.
Geduld went over for his second, only for Setefano Cakau to make it 26-26 all with two minutes to go. And then came that pass and dramatic finish.
Fiji had earlier beaten New Zealand 17-12 in the semi-finals with the Blitzboks whitewashing England 17-0. South Africa's defence was excellent in that match and they dominated the breakdown. Chris Dry, Branco du Preez and Werner Kok scored the three tries.
However, the Blitzboks had to fight hard for their 17-12 win against the USA in the quarter-finals. Seabelo Senatla scored after just 20 seconds and while the Americans responded with a try, Geduld went over to ensure South Africa led at the break. The USA went back in front, but Kok's try secured the win.
POOL: Beat Kenya 26-12
POOL: Beat Japan 33-5
POOL: Beat Argentina 28-12
CUP QUARTER-FINAL: Beat USA 17-12
CUP SEMI-FINAL: Beat England 17-0
CUP FINAL: Lost to Fiji 26-33
Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP Photo