The Blitzboks just managed to stay alive in the World Rugby Sevens Series on Saturday as they scraped past Russia 21-19 at the Paris Sevens.
They were under pressure to win after losing the opening match 14-12 against Scotland earlier at the Stade Jean Bouin, in their bid to haul in overall leaders Fiji. The South Africans made a terrible start, as normally strong defenders Werner Kok and Ruhan Nel missed tackles on Vladimir Ostroushko, who went all the way to open the scoring.
But the Blitzboks finally found their feet as Kok made amends, shrugging off a few tackles to run it in from around 50 metres to level the scores at 7-7. The defensive frailties came back to haunt Neil Powell’s team, though, as Justin Geduld was swatted away by Vladislav Sozonov, who flung the ball out wide for Ostroushko to get his second touchdown.
South Africa needed some inspiration from somewhere as they battled to break down the Russian defence, and it came from speedster Siviwe Soyizwapi, who weaved his way through to equalise at 14-14.
The Russians then showed great patience after the break, holding on to the ball through nearly a minute, before they found space out wide for Yury Gosthyuzhev to run it in for a 19-14 lead.
With time running out, though, a strangely listless-looking Blitzboks showed their class as Seabelo Senatla forced his way over. It was a tough angle for the conversion, but Dewald Human stepped up to knock it through the posts, to the great relief of the SA camp.
The Blitzboks play their final pool game against the in-form Canada, who have beaten both Scotland and Russia, at 6.30pm SA time on Saturday evening.
Blitzboks 21 – Tries: Werner Kok, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Seabelo Senatla. Conversions: Justin Geduld (2), Dewald Human (1).
Russia 19 – Tries: Vladimir Ostroushko (2), Yury Gostyuzhev. Conversions: Ramil Gaisin (2).