The Kiwis had battled throughout to string a few passes together as they threw the ball around, but seldom finding their target.
The Blitzboks hardly had to scramble on defence as New Zealand produced knock-on after knock-on, and the South Africans had made good use of the boot to keep their opponents pinned inside the 22 – they were also the team that kicked the most during the World Sevens Series season as a whole.
But it was New Zealand, of all teams, who set up the 5m scrum with a terrific punt downfield by Kurt Baker, which bobbled around about 10m from the South African tryline.
Branco du Preez had to race back and put in a soccer-style sliding tackle to kick the ball into touch, but it hit the corner flag and went into touch in-goal.
From the resulting scrum, after a few carries from Sonny Bill Williams and his mates, it was another kick that ended the Blitzboks’ hopes of clinching their first ever Hong Kong Sevens title on Sunday.
It was Baker who delivered the killer blow as his cross-kick to the left-hand corner found an unmarked Regan Ware, who took a good catch and fell over to secure a 12-7 Cup semi-final victory.
It was a devastating end for the South Africans, who were the better team on the day, but failed to take their chances during regulation time. The ball was slippery from the rain that came down earlier in the day, and both teams made several handling errors.
Neil Powell’s team made the better start as Tim Agaba crashed over following a quick tap penalty, with the ball spilling out of a ruck and Agaba picked it up and scored after just two minutes.
Both teams were unable to capitalise on excellent try-scoring opportunities, with speedster Seabelo Senatla losing the ball on a few occasions. But New Zealand eventually equalised when they kicked a penalty to inside the South African half, and Williams’ quick hands saw Lewis Ormond score in the corner.
Faced with a left-hand touchline conversion with about three minutes to go, Gillies Kaka struck the ball superbly to nail the two-pointer and level the scores.
The heavy and slippery field had an effect on the teams’ attacking play during the sudden-death extra time period, and even a yellow card to New Zealand’s Isaac Te Tamaki – for a dangerous tackle around the head on Senatla – didn’t help the Blitzboks, with Scottish referee Mike Adamson ruling that advantage was over as Senatla had kicked the ball into the New Zealand half, and Stephan Dippenaar was unable to control it in the in-goal area.
The second five-minute half of extra time was marked by strong defence, until Baker’s long-range kick to set up the final play.
Fiji thrashed Australia 34-5 in the second semi-final, and will face New Zealand in the final at 1pm, with the Blitzboks looking for crucial log points in the third-place playoff against the Aussies at 12.30pm.
Earlier on Sunday, the South Africans had dispatched USA 28-0 in the Cup quarter-final, with tries to Senatla (2), Ruhan Nel and Siviwe “Shakes” Soyizwapi.
South Africa – Try: Tim Agaba. Conversion: Justin Geduld (1).
New Zealand – Tries: Lewis Ormond, Regan Ware. Conversion: Gillies Kaka (1).
Original source: HK heartbreak for Blitzboks