Blitzbokke ‘will come back stronger’, says coach Neil Powell
South Africa aim to make up for their surprise loss to Australia, while Fiji and New Zealand look the part
A major upset had been threatening to reveal itself all day and the Australians came to the party as the clock ticked down on day two.
World Sevens Series leaders South Africa were not exactly shown the door, but will now be asked to step up if they are to claim their first title after going down 10-7 to the Aussies in the final pool D clash.
The South Africans now face England in their quarter-final, while Australia turn their attentions to Canada - on paper an easier proposition but a team who gave the English a big scare in their final game in pool C before losing 14-12.
Defending champions Fiji, meanwhile, again showed they are the team everyone has to beat, crushing Wales 42-7 and Kenya 43-5.
"We always have a close battle with South Africa. We both play a similar style of rugby," Australian coach Michael O'Connor said.
"The last time we played them they beat us 10-0 in the Wellington Sevens, so it's good to get a win over them. There's never that much in it.
"I think our boys played very well and executed the game plan the way we wanted. Now we play Canada. They're another very good side and we'll have to play well to beat them."
First-half tries to Greg Jeloudev and Ed Jenkins set up the win for the tournament's quiet achievers, who had earlier made easy work of the French in winning 26-0.
And while the South Africans threw everything they had at the Australians, it just wasn't enough.
"You're always unhappy with a loss," said South African coach Neil Powell, whose side started the day with a 22-14 win over Spain.
"We knew it was going to be physical and I think they won the kicking battle tonight. But we'll learn from this and have another chance to put things right. We'll do our homework and come out stronger tomorrow."
For New Zealand, it was a day more to survive than to savour as the heavens conspired to help level the playing field. A 26-7 win over Samoa suggested the All Blacks had no worries with the slippery conditions, but then Team USA turned up as darkness descended and for the first half at least gave as good as they got, even taking a 7-5 lead into the break.
But tries by Bryce Heen and Ben Lam steadied the ship and steered New Zealand towards Wales in the quarters.
"It was a challenging day for all teams and all players," said New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens. "It's the teams who have the bigger forwards and are able to hold on to the ball for that little longer that do well. It's basically the teams that make the least number of mistakes in these conditions that win. The game's a real leveller in these conditions. We played a pretty good USA team. And to come from behind was great."
Tietjens was also keen to rotate his squad across both games to ensure his players were well prepared for everything thrown at them today.
"I tried some new young players and they acquitted themselves pretty well so I am happy," he said, of the likes of the 21-year-old Marty McKenzie, who started against the Americans. "There are no easy games, but there comes a time when you have to trust them. You can't use the same starting seven, so you have to give them a chance to perform."