The Springbok Sevens eased to a 31-21 victory over New Zealand to secure an unbeaten run on day one of the Gold Coast Sevens.
In the Pool A decider, Paul Treu’s men excelled against the World Series defending champions.
After a disappointing campaign last season, which saw South Africa fail to secure a tournament victory, the Blitzboks displayed an all-round improvement and maturity.
Where there was once panic and hesitancy on attack, the Springbok Sevens were slick and with ball in hand. Their once shaky guard has been replaced with an effective defensive system. And while the New Zealanders were superior in size, South Africa’s intelligence and tactics in general play allowed them to hold the ascendancy.
Former IRB Sevens Player of the Year Cecil Afrika played a big part on attack and showed why he’s regarded as one of the top stars on the circuit. He was well supported by veterans Paul Delport, Branco du Preez, Frankie Horne, Steven Hunt and Chris Dry, while newbies Cornal Hendricks, Stephen Dippenaar and Ruwellyn Isbel also made impressive contributions.
This saw the Blitzbok camp inside the Kiwi’s red zone in the first stanza, with Hendricks, Delport and Horne scoring tries. New Zealand crossed the chalk after the half-time hooter as wing Tim Mikkelson raced to the corner from a free-kick tap.
South Africa led 19-7 at the break.
In the second stanza, Delport and Dippenaar sealed the win as they dotted down. New Zealand grabbed consolation tries via Iopu Iopu and Rhys Llewellyn.
The Springbok Sevens will meet France in the Cup quarter-finals on day two.
Earlier in the day, the Blitzboks claimed back-to-back group wins as they downed USA 33-5.
Matt Hawkins put the Americans into an early lead, but it was all South Africa thereafter. Tshotsho Mbovane hit back for Paul Treu’s charges, and Du Preez’s conversion secured a 7-5 half-time lead.
Tries from Du Preez, Dry, Kyle Brown and Delport in the second stanza sealed an easy triumph.
In their first match, the Springbok Sevens cruised to a 38-0 win over Canada.
Hendricks starred for the victors, grabbing a hat-trick. Hunt, Mbovane and Dry also crossed the chalk as South Africa scored six tries in the one-sided contest.
Blitzboks’ fixtures (day one):
South Africa 38 Canada 0
South Africa 33 USA 5
South Africa 31 New Zealand 21
By Gareth Duncan