Holders South Africa battle on after shocks on Day 1 of World Sevens Series in Dubai

Fiji and Great Britain crash out but the Blitzboks survive on thrilling opening day

Siviwe Soyizwapi of South Africa dives for a try during the match against Australia on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai on Friday, December 2, 2022. Getty
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A wild first day of World Sevens Series action in Dubai concluded with a bizarre final session as some of the heavyweights of the abridged format went out – while South Africa clung on to the chance of retaining their crown.

In the penultimate match on the main field at The Sevens, Argentina kicked the ball deep into the crowd beyond their own in-goal and started celebrating - despite being seven points down to Fiji as the final whistle blew.

Happily for them, the South American side are good at arithmetic. The 17-12 loss left Argentina, New Zealand and Fiji all tied on seven points at the top of Pool B.

Argentina, though, topped the group as they held a seven-point buffer over third-placed Fiji – hence their keenness to retrieve possession, and, with time up, kick the ball dead.

It means the Argentines advance to Saturday’s quarter-finals, where they will play Ireland at 10.28am, while the two-time Olympic champion Fijians exited the top-tier tournament.

Filipe Sauturaga of Fiji is tackled during the match against Argentina. Getty

For the first time in the history of men’s World Series matches at The Sevens, matches were also played on Pitch 2.

The last match on that Pitch reached just as dramatic a finish as the Argentina-Fiji game. Great Britain had come back to 14-14 after trailing Kenya by two scores at the break, but appeared to have lost as Kenya celebrated a final-play try.

It was ruled out, though, meaning Kenya – whose players have been without pay for three months – finished last in the group.

Great Britain’s players raced across the divide between the two show-pitches to see the final minutes of the last game, between Australia and South Africa.

They reached just in time to see the holders close out a 19-12 win – which was a narrow enough margin to take both sides through, and send GB out.

Australia will play United States in the second of the quarter-finals, at 10.50am. That will be followed by France against New Zealand, and then South Africa against Samoa.

Updated: December 02, 2022, 7:14 PM