Cape Town - South Africa bowed out of the Wellington Sevens title race as they lost a tense battle to hosts New Zealand 17-7 in the Cup semi-finals at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
The Wellington hoodoo continued for the Blitzboks as they struggled with referee Matt O’Brien’s interpretations, but made heavy weather of any ball they received as well to go out of the tournament after having won the previous two in Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
The Blitzboks have never won in Wellington in the tournament’s 16 year history, with New Zealand setting up a big final against England, who won this tournament last year.
The Blitzboks will now have to face Scotland in the 3rd/4th place playoff at 09:23 where a victory will give them some much needed points and keep them at the top of the World Rugby Sevens rankings halfway through the season.
In a weekend where their attack struggled, it was New Zealand who took the momentum early, with Joe Webber scoring early to give them an advantage and O’Brien ridiculously sin-binning Seabelo Senatla for repeated infringements in a harsh decision, even though there had only been two penalties in the game.
But with six men, Cecil Afrika attacked early and with some great interplay between him, Phillip Snyman and ultimately Kwagga Smith, the Blitzboks scored an end to end try to level matters up at the break.
The second half saw the Blitzboks being blown off the park at the breakdown, with New Zealand capitalising on a quick penalty tap to send Jack Goodhue away to score.
And then, with the All Blacks missing a drop kick to put the game beyond doubt, the ball hit the post and in his eagerness to clear the ball, Afrika’s kick spilt off the side of his boot and into the hands of Rieko Ioane, who ran 20 metres to score and put the game beyond doubt.
Earlier the Blitzboks beat Kenya 19-5 in the quarter-finals to advance.