CAPE TOWN – The Blitzboks had the chance to knock Dubai champions New Zealand out of the Cape Town Sevens, but a botched late kickoff saw the Kiwis stay alive at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
With the scores locked at 21-21 and the final play at hand, the South Africans just had to collect the kickoff and boot the ball out to end the All Black Sevens’ Cup tournament.
But the ball was lost forward, and in typical New Zealand fashion, they moved the ball from side to side, and eventually outworked the Blitzbok defence that saw Vilimoni Koroi dive over in the left-hand corner to clinch a 26-21 victory.
But fortunately for Neil Powell’s team, they top Pool A due to a better points difference, and will face Scotland first up on Sunday in the Cup quarter-finals.
New Zealand had lost their second pool game 21-17 to Samoa after dispatching Zimbabwe earlier, and had to beat the South Africans to reach the Cup quarter-finals.
But it was the Blitzboks who withstood a pressurised start to the last game of the day in an electric atmosphere at Cape Town Stadium.
Almost time. pic.twitter.com/vksuW2gF1l— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) December 8, 2018
The breakthrough came in the fifth minute, after Siviwe Soyizwapi did brilliantly to field a Justin Geduld cross-kick, where after captain Philip Snyman surged forward a few times before Rosko Specman sped through a gap to dot down.
But the Kiwis were desperate, and managed to score twice before halftime, when Andrew Knewstubb’s sidestep caused Geduld to slip, and then captain Sione Molia wrong-footed Werner Kok to give the visitors a 14-7 lead at the break.
Kok, though, made up for his defensive mistake by bumping off two defenders following a five-metre scrum, and suddenly it was level at 14-14.
The highlight of the game for the Blitzboks came when Branco du Preez won a breakdown penalty inside his own half, and then stay out side to bump off a defender to bring the crowd to their feet as the South Africans took a 21-14 lead.
It looked like the Blitzboks were going to knock the Kiwis out of the Cup competition, but Molia surged forward to level the scores – just in time for a final play at 21-21.
That is when the South Africans failed to secure possession from the kickoff, leading to Koroi’s match-winning touchdown.
Blitzboks 21 – Tries: Rosko Specman, Werner Kok, Branco du Preez. Conversions: Justin Geduld (3).
New Zealand 26 – Tries: Andrew Knewstubb, Sione Molia (2), Vilimoni Koroi. Conversions: Knewstubb (2), Koroi (1).
South Africa's Day 1 Results
Beat Samoa 22-12
Beat Zimbabwe 43-0
Lost to New Zealand 26-21
12.04pm: Blitzboks v Scotland
12.26pm: Fiji v Spain
12.48pm: Australia v New Zealand
1.10pm: USA v England