The Blitzboks beat New Zealand 21-19 on Sunday to set up a Cup semi-final showdown with the USA at the Hong Kong Sevens.
The Blitzboks weren’t at their best, especially in the first half. But clinical execution whenever there were scoring opportunities lifted them past the inspired Kiwis, who have played with renewed vigour at the Hong Kong event after several insipid performances in previous tournaments.
South Africa started brightly when Dylan Sage smothered a New Zealand attack by ripping the ball away in a tackle and setting up Chris Dry for the score. But from there the All Blacks Sevens matched the Blitzboks’ physicality and it paid off.
New Zealand scored two late tries in the first half, but the second was an opportunistic effort originating from a suicidal move by the South Africans. Having conceded six penalties, the referee yellow-carded Sage at the stroke of half-time. But the Blitzboks defence held firm and won a relieving penalty.
With the score at 7-5 in their favour and a numerical disadvantage, all the South Africans had to do was kick into touch to see out the first half. Instead they took a quick tap and went in search of a try, but a long lofted pass was intercepted and Sione Molia dotted down at the other end as New Zealand led 12-7.
The second half belonged to the South Africans, whose abrasive defence became the feature of their play. New Zealand struggled to exit their own half and from turnover possession the Blitzboks scored. From a turnover penalty on the far-right side of the field, the ball was recycled before Cecil Afrika went over to score soon after the restart.
Towards the end, Werner Kok scored from close quarters and with Branco du Preez succeeding with all his conversion attempts, South Africa led 21-12 with seconds remaining.
Replacement Sam Dickson did score in stoppage time for New Zealand, but his effort only added respectability to the scoreline.
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