The Blitzboks shrugged off their pre-tournament disruptions and scored five tries to beat Ireland and kick off their Pool C campaign with a victory on day one of the Olympic Sevens on Monday.
After a Covid-19 outbreak, the Blitzboks entered the tournament without head coach Neil Powell, who has had to remain in isolation in Kagoshima, with Renfred Dazel taking charge of the team.
It also meant that several members of the playing squad only linked up with the rest of the team in Tokyo this past Sunday and had little training time since arriving in Japan.
However, the Blitzboks put those disruptions behind them as they shook off the rust and made an assured start to their Olympic campaign against a competitive Ireland team.
Tries from Zain Davids and Impi Visser put South Africa 14-0 up, but Ireland were not going down without a fight as they grabbed a try back through Gavin Mullin in extra time in the first half.
The Blitzboks made effective use of the kick-pass throughout the match and Justin Geduld latched on to a crossfield punt to make 21-7, but Ireland again hit back as Terry Kennedy sliced through the South Africans’ defence.
An excellent finish in the corner from Chris Dry extended the Blitzboks’ lead, before Stedman Gans all but sealed the result when he rounded the Ireland defence with seconds left to play to make it 33-14.
The Blitzboks take on Kenya in their second Pool C match at 11am (SA time) and then face USA at 4:30am on Tuesday morning.
In other day one results, defending champions Fiji needed to come from behind to get their Tokyo 2020 campaign off to a winning start against hosts Japan, eventually running out 24-19 winners. In the other Pool B encounter, reigning silver medallists Great Britain got their campaign off to a winning start, with a 33-0 defeat of Canada with World Series all-time top try-scorer Dan Norton scoring two tries.
In Pool A, Rugby World Cup Sevens and World Rugby Sevens Series champions New Zealand opened their Tokyo 2020 campaign with a win, beating the Republic of Korea 50-5. Argentina claimed an impressive 29-19 defeat of Australia.
In the final match of the morning session, Kenya slipped to an agonising 19-14 defeat by the USA.