The Springbok Sevens will take on Argentina in the quarter-finals after getting their second day at the Tokyo Olympics off to a good start by beating the United States 17-12 on Tuesday.
Having got past Ireland and Kenya on Monday, the Blitzboks still needed to knock over the Americans in order to top Pool C and have a somewhat easier quarter-final clash, and they were able to do so with a mixture of fluidity on attack and some gritty tackling.
They will face Argentina at 11.30am SA time on Tuesday.
The South Africans looked more assured with their handling at the start of the US encounter, stretching their opponents out wide, but were unable to get through.
Once the Americans got their hands on the ball, they used their big runners to good effect, with Martin Iosefo and Joe Schroeder prominent. The much smaller South Africans slipped a few tackles, but were generally able to recover with their scramble defence.
But Schroeder made the breakthrough in the first half when he stepped past Zain Davids’ attempted tackle and was strong enough to keep Chris Dry at bay to dot down in the left-hand corner.
Things were looking ominous for Siviwe Soyizwapi’s team as another hulking figure, Danny Barrett, burst through tackles from Zain and Selvyn Davids, before the latter eventually brought him down.
The Americans had all the momentum at that stage, but a try-saving tackle by JC Pretorius on Steve Tomasin just short of the line saved the day, with Impi Visser winning the breakdown penalty.
The Blitzboks worked their way up the field just before halftime, and from a five-metre scrum, Stedman Gans found Selvyn Davids, who easily danced past Iosefo to level the scores at 5-5.
The United States rushed things in the second half as they tried to get out of their 22, with the South Africans’ rush defence proving to be much more effective instead of waiting for their opponents to run at them.
They were initially unable to capitalise, with Justin Geduld’s pass to Gans well-marked by USA, but soon after that, a breakdown penalty was tapped by Selvyn Davids, who put Gans over for a crucial touchdown that put South Africa into the lead for the first time.
Their confidence clearly grew, and they secured victory with another big hit, this time by Geduld on Madison Hughes as the ball spilled loose inside the US 22, and Angelo Davids offloaded to Selvyn Davids to stretch the lead to 17-5.
Brett Thompson scored a consolation try for the US, but South Africa were able to close out the victory.
South Africa 17 – Tries: Selvyn Davids (2), Stedman Gans. Conversion: Selvyn Davids (1).
United States 12 – Tries: Joe Schroeder, Brett Thompson. Conversion: Madison Hughes (1).