South Africa continued to set the pace at the Sevens World Series in Wellington on Saturday, while former New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens’ return to his homeland with Samoa fell flat.
England, South Africa, New Zealand and tournament surprise package Canada all topped their pools with three wins from three matches to cruise into the quarter-finals.
But it was the competition-leading Blitzboks who caught the eye, holding Australia and Japan scoreless before demolishing Fiji 31-12.
They raced to a 17-0 lead but Fiji narrowed it to 17-12 before South Africans stepped up a gear and the reigning series champions and Olympic gold medallists had no answer.
“We came out and laid a solid foundation, then really built on that,” South Africa captain Philip Snyman said.
“Fiji ran us close towards the end but luckily the guys came through.”
Canada provided the major upsets of the day, defeating Wales (28-2), Scotland (28-19) and Russia (29-0)
Scotland still qualified for the quarters as runner=up in their group, as did Argentina, Fiji and France.
Local interest was on the Pool C grudge match between New Zealand — who have won the Wellington tournament for the past three years — and Tietjens’ Samoa.
Tietjens coached New Zealand for 22 years, guiding them to 12 Sevens World Series titles, four Commonwealth gold medals and two Sevens World Cup crowns.
He announced his departure after last year’s failure at the Rio Olympics, and then accepted a role with the Pacific islanders.
However, he was still officially contracted to NZR, which made him sit out the opening rounds, making Wellington his first tournament in charge of Samoa.
Tietjens, who has described his treatment as “hurtful”, said he knew the New Zealanders — who have won the Wellington tournament for the past three years — would be fired up facing their former boss.
He was proved correct as they scored in the first 90 seconds and went to record a comprehensive 33-7 win.
“You’ve hardly even touched (the ball) yet, let’s get a bit of mongrel out there on the park,” a frustrated Tietjens told his players in the half-time huddle.
Samoa also lost their other two pool matches but Tietjens said he still believed the raw materials were there to build a successful side.
“There’s a lot of energy in the team, a lot of enthusiasm.,” the World Rugby hall of famer said.
“We’ve showed when we get a bit of ball and a bit of time we can do something with it.”