Cape Town - Two wins and a draw secured the Blitzboks the top spot of Pool B on the opening day at the LA Sevens in Carson, and they will face the USA in the quarter-finals on Sunday evening (SA time).
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Two wins and a draw secured the Springbok Sevens the top spot of Pool B on the opening day at the HSBC LA Sevens in Carson, and they will face the USA in the quarterfinals on Sunday evening (SA time).
The Blitzboks kicked off their challenge at Dignity Health Sports Park with resounding wins over Kenya (31-5) and Canada (33-5), but then had to rely on a last-play converted try by Stedman Gans to haul in Ireland and share the spoils 19-19.
Scores were tied 7-7 at the break, but Ireland scored twice after the restart and looked set to claim their first win over the Blitzboks with less than two minutes to go.
A try by Kurt-Lee Arendse eased the deficit. The Irish tried to run out the clock, but their timing was two seconds out and they kicked the ball into touch near their own line just before the final whistle.
Chris Dry, who joined the team only hours before after a long haul from South Africa, won the crucial resulting lineout with Gans cutting the Irish to shreds with a well-timed run. Selvyn Davids kicked the conversion to draw the match.
For Blitzbok assistant coach, Renfred Dazel, that result spoke volumes of the team's general attitude on the day.
"We never lost composure and forced Ireland into that mistake with seconds to go. In sevens you need to play and concentrate the full 14 minutes, or you will be punished," Dazel reflected.
Dazel was pleased with the overall effort and said the contributions from the bench proved their worth: “Kurt-Lee Arendse did well when he played and Muller du Plessis finished well when called upon, so generally it was a good day for us."
The close result against Ireland reminded the team about the knock-out realities that awaits them on Sunday.
"If you don't pitch up and play at your very best in the knock-out stages, your Cup dreams will be over," said Dazel.
"We will not only play USA, but their crowd as well, so need to be sharp on Sunday."
It was a 50th tournament and 250th match for Werner Kok when they took the field against Kenya and he had a mixed bag, being yellow-carded, but also scoring a good try.
"I only needed to kick a conversion as well for full value in that match," Kok said.
"We were outplayed a bit by Ireland, all due to a poor start and that is something that we need to get right on the second day. We started poorly in all three matches and that must be a wake-up call for Sunday."
Kok said he appreciated the milestone: “It was fun out there today. At times it was tough, but what a great feeling being out there with the boys."
Los Angeles Cup quarter-final line-up on Sunday (all times SA):
Fiji v England - 19:43
Australia v Ireland - 20:05
New Zealand v France - 20:27
South Africa v USA - 20:49
Los Angeles Cup semi-finals:
Fiji/England v Australia/Ireland
New Zealand/France v South Africa/USA
Results on Day 1 of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Los Angeles on Saturday:
Argentina 26 France 26
Fiji 45 South Korea 7
Argentina 45 South Korea 19
Fiji 33 France 28
France 31 South Korea 12
Fiji 38 Argentina 14
Ireland 17 Canada 12
South Africa 31 Kenya 5
Ireland 12 Kenya 29
South Africa 33 Canada 5
Canada 24 Kenya 0
South Africa 19 Ireland 19
Australia 31 Scotland 7
USA 19 Samoa 17
Australia 31 Samoa 5
USA 33 Scotland 12
Scotland 14 Samoa 10
USA 7 Australia 17
New Zealand 42 Wales 7
England 5 Spain 22
New Zealand 21 Spain 7
England 31 Wales 14
Wales 24 Spain 14
England 17 New Zealand 21