The Blitzboks advanced to the quarter-finals of the Paris Sevens on Saturday, but they made heavy weather of their first two pool games before playing far better in the third, and will want to take the latter form into Sunday’s matches.
The South Africans are still in the running to win the event and thus defend the title they won here in Paris last year.
They will face Spain in the Cup quarter-finals on Sunday at 11.19am SA time.
But they came within a whisker of missing the quarters when they first lost to Scotland and then had to rely on a score on the final hooter to sneak past Russia.
The Boks saved their best for last to outplay a Canada side that had earlier thrashed Scotland, who had comprehensively beaten the Boks in their opening game in the morning.
The Scots won that game 14-12 with a last-second conversion. They had scored first through Robbie Ferguson, which was cancelled out by a fine individual try by Justin Geduld.
And the Boks went ahead after a strong finish by Seabelo Senatla, only for Scotland’s Harvey Elms to equalise on fulltime. The conversion was good and the Boks had deservedly lost.
The Boks had been asleep in that game and nothing changed against Russia. Shortly after kickoff, captain Vladimir Ostroushko scored after handling off a number of defenders. It was poor defence indeed, and that was again the case when the stocky skipper scored his second try.
Werner Kok, a former World Series Player of the Year, scored with South Africa’s first touch of the ball two minutes before halftime and then came the Boks’ best moment of the day when Siviwe Soyizwapi weaved his way through a host of defenders. It was 14-14 at halftime, and the Russians went ahead again when Yurt Gostyuzhev scored.
With 30 seconds remaining, Seabelo Senatla scored to make it 19-19, and the last-second conversion spared the South Africans’ blushes.
The Blitzboks burst into life against the unbeaten Canadians, overwhelming them 28-0, with converted tries going to Ryan Oosthuizen, Kok, Senatla and Dewald Human.
Paris Sevens Cup Quarter-Finals
10.13am: Fiji v England
10.35am: Ireland v Canada
10.57am: United States v New Zealand
11.19am: South Africa v Spain