World Rugby Sevens Series
Australia sets up South Africa quarter-final showdown
January 30, 2016
© Mark Tantrum/Getty Images

An under-strength Australia booked a place in the quarter-finals of the world series rugby sevens tournament in New Zealand after finishing top of their pool on Saturday's opening day.

The Thunderbolts will face series co-leaders South Africa on Sunday in the last eight.

Sam Myers scored in the final minute to hand Australia a 17-12 win over Kenya and an unbeaten record on the first day, after mixed performances in beating Portugal 19-12 and Canada 26-22.

The Thunderbolts saved their best for the previously unbeaten Kenya.

Trailing 12-7 at half-time, they moved level when Greg Jeloudev grabbed his second try. A 12th successive win over Kenya was clinched when Myers fooled the defence with a dummy and scored down the blind side.

Australian interim coach Scott Bowen said he thought the Thunderbolts did well overall and improved from game to game.

"These guys haven't played together as a team that often and the combinations were a bit disjointed in our first match against Portugal.

"We always enjoy playing South Africa who are one of the best-balanced teams in the competition.

"You've got to be judged by playing the best and relish the challenge and we certainly will do that tomorrow."

Bowen said the side eventually found their rhythm when they started to control possession.

"In sevens, if you don't have the ball and if you keep coughing it up, you are going to get punished no matter who your opposition is. Our contact area improved in the second game and the improved performances came with the players growing in confidence from each result."

Bowen praised the performances of some of his youngsters.

"Henry Hutchison and Stephan Van Der Walt had some great touches and they haven't played a lot of international tournaments.

"Greg Jeloudev has been a consistent member of this team for the last couple of years and has often been underrated. He did a very good job today, he was good with his contact and finished well.

"Hopefully, he can continue that form tomorrow when we take on South Africa," Bowen said.

Australia were beaten quarter-finalists in the first two legs of the world series, losing to respective eventual champions Fiji and South Africa.

They have left several key players at home this week, including regular skipper Ed Jenkins and attacking maestro Cam Clark, to prepare for next week's fourth round in Sydney.

Regulars Nick Malouf, Pama Fou and Pat McCutcheon are injured.

Newly appointed head coach Andy Friend was watching on in the stands as Bowen took the reins. Friend takes charge in Sydney, when he is expected to have the services of Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper.

New Zealand have set up a quarter-final against Kenya, with cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams turning from villain to hero in the closing minutes of their Pool D clash against South Africa.

With only two minutes left in the match, Williams entered off the bench with the All Blacks ahead 12-7, but the debutant threw a wayward that was easily picked up by the Blitzboks, who hit the front through a converted Cheslin Kolbe try.

With time up and New Zealand close to their tryline, a sweeping move upfield was capped when another Williams offload put Joe Webber clear 40m out and ensured the tournament defending champions made it three from three in pool play.

The world series defending champion Fijians unfurled the most accomplished displays, tallying 109 points to 24 in their hefty wins over pool runners-up Argentina, Wales and Japan.

Pool C was the most competitive, with England beating France and the United States to secure top spot, before crashing to previously winless Samoa.

The USA qualified second by winning their sudden-death final pool game against France 29-21 to set up an unenviable quarter-final against Fiji.

New Zealand are gunning for a fifth win in the past six Wellington tournaments to alleviate a slow start to the world series.

They are sixth overall after injuries stymied their performances in the first two tournaments in December in Dubai and Cape Town.


* New Zealand v Kenya

* England v Argentina

* Australia v South Africa

* Fiji v United States


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