New Zealand and Samoa have been forced into an early showdown at the Australian round of the IRB Sevens after South Africa upset the rankings with a surprise draw against the Pacific islanders.
The result put the South Africans on top of Pool B on points difference and left New Zealand and Samoa, the top two teams on the championship ladder, destined to meet in the quarter-finals.
New Zealand and Australia were the only teams to go through pool play unbeaten yesterday.
Australia forced England out of the play-offs with a 17-12 victory which allowed the US, who beat England on the opening day, to sneak into the quarter-finals as the second best performer in Pool D.
Wales recovered from a 19-5 loss to Kenya to finish ahead of Fiji in Pool C and Argentina, who went down to New Zealand 47-7, still qualified second to the Kiwis in Pool A.
Although South Africa and Samoa were tied at the top of Pool B with two wins and a draw each, South Africa were the top qualifiers because of their superior points differential and will play Argentina in today’s quarter-finals.
Samoa have been the rising stars of the sevens circuit this year, moving into second place and closing in on leaders New Zealand after winning the last leg in Las Vegas.
Despite being blessed with the series’ most prolific try-scorer Mikaeli Pesamino, Samoa had to settle for a 12-12 draw with South Africa in the deciding match in Pool B.
Pesamino scored the opening try, which Lolo Lui converted, while impressive 19-year-old Sampie Mastriet replied for South Africa for Samoa to be ahead 7-5 at halftime.
Fautua Otto extended the advantage to 12-5 with an early try in the second half and Samoa appeared on track to win until a minute into injury-time when Frankie Horne scored and Cecil Afrika equalized with the conversion.
New Zealand, who won the first two rounds of the series in Dubai and South Africa before losing to Samoa in the semi-finals of the New Zealand leg and the Las Vegas final, cruised into the quarter-finals as the best performing team here. They scored the most points in their three pool matches with 104 and conceded the fewest with seven.
Australia, targeting their home tournament to win their first title in eight years, play Fiji in the quarter-finals, while Wales play the US.