Defending Cape Town champions Samoa failed to qualify for the quarter-finals on a day of shocks on a hot and windy opening day of the second leg of HSBC SVNS 2024.

Samoa finished bottom of a tight Pool C, as New Zealand scraped into the quarter-finals as one of the best third-place finishers, and Canada sprang not one but two early surprises.

Ireland, too, rounded off the day with an unexpected win to confirm their place in the last eight, along with Argentina, Australia, hosts South Africa, Fiji and France.

POOL A: Nortje shines as hosts book quarter-final berth

South Africa have unearthed a real talent in Quewin Nortje as they set out on their quest for a first home title since 2015. The flyer added two more tries to the four he scored on debut in Dubai last week, as they beat Great Britain 19-5 in their opener.

“It’s such a privilege to be here. A first Cape Town sevens is just an incredible experience,” Nortje said after making his first appearance in front of a joyous home crowd who had started the party early.

In the hosts' second match, Lucas Lacamp scored two tries in quick succession as USA came back to level the scores after being 14-0 down – but touchdowns for Impi Visser and Ronald Brown in the closing minutes ensured the Blitzboks went two for two, winning 26-14. 

Zac Ward notched a double as Ireland made their bow in Cape Town with a 31-0 win over USA. Then it was Harry McNulty’s turn to run the show, scoring either side of half-time as the Irish added a second win to their Cape Town campaign, 19-14 over Great Britain.

Winless Great Britain needed to beat winless USA in their final match of the day by 31 points to book their passage to the last eight, at the expense of New Zealand. It was always a long shot, and they didn’t manage it.

Instead, at the end of a 26-26 thriller, the match went to golden point. A Tom Emery touchdown after Marcus Tupuola was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on, gave Great Britain a win and condemned last year’s bronze medallists to a bottom-of-the-pool finish.

But the best was saved for the final match of Pool A, the final match of the day, as Ireland shocked the hosts to edge a high-intensity encounter 14-12. Afterwards, a victorious Gavin Mullin said Ireland had targeted the hosts: “We definitely had an eye on this one, we knew it was going to be a good atmosphere, good crowd, against really good opposition – obviously, last week they won – so we just wanted to take it to them.”

POOL B: Revol celebrates 100th tournament

“I’m really proud of everything that has happened over the years,” Los Pumas Sevens veteran Gastón Revol said after his first outing at his 100th tournament ended with a 21-7 win over France.

“I’m most happy because of the win today. The present is always the most important thing so it’s very good for the 100, but we are here now in Cape Town, we want to go game by game.”

It was the two sides’ second match of the day. Earlier, two tries in the first four minutes for Luciano Gonzalez set Los Pumas 7s on the way to a 31-12 win over Spain. 

Meanwhile, Rayan Rebbadj kicked a decisive late penalty with the clock in the red, as France – who struggled with discipline all day – held off a Fiji comeback to win their opening match 17-14. They had raced into a 14-0 first-half lead, before the Pacific Island side roared back to level the scores in the second.

A hat-trick for Pilipo Bukayaro helped get Fiji back on track, as they eased past Spain 33-7 in their second match. And a 19-12 win over Argentina, despite a red card for Josese Batirerega for a high tackle, saw them end the day top of the pool.

France’s indiscipline threatened to cost them against a determined and inventive Spain, as they conceded penalty after penalty with the clock ticking down. But they survived to win a second close encounter 21-19.

POOL C: Pool of shocks

The All Blacks Sevens were caught napping against Canada first up, losing 19-7. Leroy Carter then scored a first-half hat-trick, as New Zealand – their “tournament on the line”, according to Scott Curry – atoned for that opening-match defeat by putting Australia to the sword, winning 35-5 with all their points coming in the first seven minutes.

But their day ended with a 21-14 loss against Samoa. The only saving grace: Curry’s 14th-minute converted try that gave them a bonus point that meant they finished third in Pool C, with other results seeing them through to the quarter-finals.

After their win over New Zealand, an inspired Canada then sprang a second shock, beating defending champions Samoa 33-7.

Cooper Coats said after the win over Samoa: “It’s pretty unbelievable – the last time we beat them was probably about six years ago. We just wanted to improve on a bit of a disappointing weekend last weekend, so happy to get the job done.

“We’ve been together for a bit now. And now it’s just where we’re starting to get the confidence to put on some performances we’re proud of.”

If it was a bad day at the pools office for New Zealand, it was worse for Samoa. That loss to Canada was the their second in as many games. They were earlier beaten 27-7 by an organised Australia.

Canada – 12th in Dubai a week ago – finished day one with a 26-7 defeat against Australia, but finished second in the pool to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Sunday’s quarter finals will see Argentina play Canada, Ireland face New Zealand, Australia play South Africa and Fiji take on France.