The Blitzboks fell agonisingly short of completing the perfect turnaround following a 10-12 reverse to Fiji in the final of the Sydney Sevens on Sunday.
Given that they finished a lowly tenth in Hamilton, New Zealand last weekend, Neil Powell’s charges were a team transformed once they crossed north over the Tasman Sea.
Despite finishing unbeaten in their pool and then surviving a testing semifinal against the USA (19-12), the South Africans were undone by some vital errors in the showpiece.
A poor kick-off receipt meant Justin Geduld and JC Pretorius had to complete a vital dual tackle on their own tryline, but Fiji’s momentum eventually led to Napolioni Bolaca’s opener.
However, the Blitzboks’ resolve shone shortly afterwards after a brilliant run on the left by the burly but pacy Zain Davids allowed Pretorius to dot over.
There was the added bonus of Josua Vakurunabili receiving a yellow card, but the South Africans couldn’t make it count, instead conceding a second to Bolaca, who exploited some poor tackling.
The second half continued to be characterised by some ferocious competition at the breakdowns, before the Blitzboks gave themselves a fighting chance with a sweeping move that was brilliantly rounded off by the influential Davids.
But they lacked control in the dying stages of a game played in wet conditions to hand the Islanders the title.
Fiji – Try: Napolioni Bolaca (2). Conversion: Bolaca.
Blitzboks – Try: JC Pretorius, Zain Davids.