Cape Town — The Blitzboks’ bid to clinch their first ever Hong Kong Sevens title is still alive after they qualified for the Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
The Springbok Sevens side opened their campaign on Friday with a hard-fought 14-7 win over Ireland, but they knew that they still faced two tough encounters in what has been described as the ‘pool of death’ in Pool D, which also included New Zealand and Kenya.
It was the All Black Sevens first up for the South Africans on Saturday, and despite the scores being level at 7-7 at halftime, the Kiwis triumphed 12-7 in the end to ensure that they would win the group.
Mfundo Ndhlovu was the SA try-scorer, with the New Zealand tries coming from Leroy Carter and Cody Vai, as well as a conversion by Akuila Rokolisoa.
That meant the final pool clash against fellow Africans Kenya was a must-win game for coach Sandile Ngcobo’s team, and they managed to do the business with a 26-17 victory – although they had an anxious wait for the last group match between New Zealand and Ireland.
The Irish still had a chance to make the quarter-finals if they could win by at least seven points, but it was not to be as the World Rugby Sevens Series log-leaders won 26-7, which now sees SA taking on Fiji on Sunday.
The Blitzboks were quick out of the blocks against Kenya, running up a 19-0 halftime lead via tries by Shaun Williams, captain Siviwe Soyizwapi and Christie Grobbelaar, as well as two Ricardo Duarttee conversions.
Former Junior Springbok wing Donovan Don grabbed his first Blitzbok try in the second half, with Kenya scoring three touchdowns of their own through Nelson Oyoo, Jeff Oluoch and Billy Odhiambo.
South Africa will hope to go all the way to the final at least, after dropping down to seventh on the log on 89 points following the recent tournaments in Los Angeles and Vancouver as they need to finish in the top four to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
New Zealand are currently on top with 120, followed by Argentina (108) and France (95).
Sunday’s Cup Quarter-Finals (all SA times)
4.02am: New Zealand v Argentina
4.25am: France v Spain
4.48am: Fiji v South Africa
5.11am: USA v Great Britain