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The Blitzboksbeat Fiji in 17-7 the final fixture of the Singapore Sevens on Saturday to set up a quarterfinal meeting against Samoa on Sunday morning.
In a tense Pool A meeting, the Blitzboks youngsters pulled out all the stops to ensure the side finish day one unbeaten.
Having brushed aside Scotland 36-10 and Canada 36-0, the Blitzboks’ final pool game was against title rivals Fiji. The Islanders were fresh off losing 12-19 to Scotland earlier in the day, after beating Canada 50-12 in their opening fixture.
But when two giants of the sport meet, it’s always special, even if the tries aren’t being rattled off at apace.
It took almost the entire first half for the first points of the match to be scored. Stedman Gans danced over the line for a try after six minutes of brutal exchanges. The kick was missed, though, but the Blitzboks held on after the final restart to take a 5-0 lead into the break.
Fiji used their muscle in the second half and hit back to take a 7-0 lead through a converted Aminiasi Tuimaba try.
But South Africa pounced faster than you can say flier with Kurt-Lee Arendse pouncing on an offload and sprinting across to add five more points. This time, the kick was converted and the Blitzboks edged back into the lead.
Further tense exchanges followed, but Werner Kok power over to put the Blitzboks 17-7 clear with under a minute to go. That was how it finished meaning South Africa will meet Samoa in the quarterfinals and face either Argentina or the USA should they progress to the semis.
South Africa are fourth on the World Series log with just one win – in Vancouver – in the tournament so far. While it looks unlikely that they will defend their title, this season has always been about blooding the youngsters as the Blitzboks prepare for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Hamstrung by injury to some their most senior players with others in pursuit of the XV dream, it’s been a tough season for Neil Powell’s men.
But Kurt-Lee Arendse’s emergence and Siviwe Soyizwapi’s captaincy might have just ingnited a spark that’s been missing until Singapore.
Singapore Sevens quarterfinals: Blitzboks and other fixtures
Times are SAST.
Blitzboks vs Samoa – 5:30
New Zealand vs Fiji – 6:14
Australia vs England – 6:36