A late surge saw New Zealand triumph over South Africa 19-7 in the headline match on the opening day of the IRB Sevens world series here Friday but it was Fiji who loomed as the tournament threat.
New Zealand, the series leaders, and South Africa the defending champions, were locked at 7-7 with less than two minutes to play and with both aware the loser would face Fiji in the quarterfinals.
South Africa had made all the play in the second half and spent most of the time inside the New Zealand 22 before cracking as the pressure mounted.
New Zealand’s first foray into South African territory in the second spell ended with Zar Lawrence touching down and Kurt Baker followed immediately after the resumption of play to seal the outcome.
Earlier in Pool A New Zealand had beaten Wales 29-5 and Niue 49-5 and will now play Australia in the quarterfinals.
South Africa registered wins of 38-10 over Niue and 38-5 against Wales before falling to New Zealand, leaving them destined to face Fiji in the play-off rounds.
The Fijians, who watched the New Zealand-South Africa clash from the sidelines, were rampant in Pool B rounding off their day by invoking memories of their best from previous years when they whipped Australia 38-7.
Fiji chalked up an impressive 115 points on the day, adding to their victory over Australia with a 36-5 win over Scotland and beating Papua New Guinea, now coached by former Fiji great Waisale Serevi, 41-0.
On the other side of the draw England beat Kenya 24-10 for the two teams to finish one-two in pool C, while Canada provided the day’s biggest upset when they beat Argentina 26-7 to finish second behind Samoa in Pool D.
Samoa play Kenya in the quarterfinals on Saturday and England meet Canada.
New Zealand have won the first two rounds of the 2009-10 world sevens series to lead the championship with 48 points ahead of Fiji on 36, England with 28 and Samoa 26. — AFP