CAPE TOWN - THERE were some worrying moments, but the Springbok Sevens side displayed great composure under pressure to beat Kenya 14-5 and qualify for the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday.
The Blitzboks, who beat Ireland 33-14 earlier in the day at Tokyo Stadium, looked like they were going to cruise to victory against their fellow Africans in the first half.
The South Africans were able to win their own kickoff and earn a penalty, but were stopped in their tracks by a knock-on.
But they quickly got on to the scoreboard a few minutes later when Selvyn Davids, who took another top penalty in front of the posts, slowed down and then stepped past Willy Ambaka to dot down near the posts.
The Blitzboks soon doubled their lead when captain Siviwe Soyizwapi was put into space on the left-hand side. There were three Kenyans bearing down on him, but somehow, with a combination of fancy footwork and a powerful hand-off, he managed to worm his way over the line.
The east African opponents battled to get possession, with the kickoffs proving particularly tricky as Selvyn Davids got good height on his drop-kicks, but once they had the ball in their hands, they were hard to bring down.
Just before halftime, their bigger men such as Jeff Oluoch and captain Andrew Omondo got more involved and slipped a couple of tackles, and Collins Injera raced away to reduce the deficit to 14-5 at the break.
The Kenyans carried that momentum into the second half, attacking the wider channels and getting offloads away in the tackle as the Blitzboks were left scrambling.
But three key interventions at the breakdowns, from Soyizwapi, Sako Makata and Angelo Davids, saw the South Africans earn welcome penalties and get out of their own half.
The Blitzboks struggled to win their own lineouts throughout the match, though, and weren’t able to add to their two tries.
But they got the job done by going through to Tuesday’s quarter-finals, with one more Pool C match to play against the United States on the same day (4.30am SA time).
South Africa 14 – Tries: Selvyn Davids, Siviwe Soyizwapi. Conversions: Branco du Preez (2).
Kenya 5 – Try: Collins Injera.