TOKYO — South Africa rallied with three second-half tries Sunday to defeat New Zealand 24-19 and win the Tokyo Sevens rugby title.
Canada completed a disappointing tournament, defeating Japan 27-14 in the Shield final to finish 13th. The weekend performance dropped the Canadian men two places to 11th in the series standings.
In the Cup final, New Zealand held a 12-0 lead at the break but the South Africans erased the deficit early in the second half on tries by Seabelo Senatla and Cecil Afrika that were converted by Branco du Preez.
A penalty by du Preez and a try by Cornal Hendricks completed the scoring for South Africa.
Gillies Kaka, Tim Mikkelson and Ben Lam scored tries for series leader New Zealand, which holds a 32-point lead over South Africa in the standings with two rounds remaining.
It was South Africa’s second win of the series following a 40-21 win over New Zealand in the final of the Las Vegas Sevens in February.
"It’s is not every day you beat New Zealand twice in the final," South Africa head coach Paul Treu said. "Every win you have to take, and we can go back to South Africa as a happy team."
South Africa beat France 14-12 in the semifinals while New Zealand advanced with a 35-17 win over Australia.
Last year’s Tokyo Sevens winner Australia finished third, crushing France 31-7.
The Canadians, who finished third in their pool with a 1-2-0 record, opened Sunday with a 17-5 loss to Kenya with Taylor Paris scoring the opening try.
That dropped the Canadians into the fourth-tier Shield, which they claimed with a 38-0 win over Spain and the victory over Japan. Nathan Hiryama paced the Spain win with a try and four conversions.
The next round is on May 4-5 in Glasgow, Scotland.
That event is crucial to Canada since only the top 12 series finishers retain their core status for next season. Teams ranked 13th through 15th after the Glasgow event must fight for their status in a relegation/promotion tournament with Asian champion Hong Kong and Georgia, Russia, Tonga and Zimbabwe.
Canada, with 54 points, currently leads Scotland and the U.S. by eight points.
The Canadians have been drawn in a formidable pool in Glasgow alongside No. 2 South Africa, No. 4 Samoa and No. 5 Kenya.
At a separate weekend women’s event in China, Canada finished by defeating the U.S. 17-5.
New Zealand won the China Sevens in Guangzhou with a 19-5 victory over England for their second IRB Women’s Sevens World Series title of the season. England also has a win, in Houston.
The Canadian women won their pool Saturday with wins over Ireland, Japan and Australia. And they opened Sunday with a 33-0 victory over Brazil in the Cup quarter-final with Elissa Alarie leading the way with two tries. England then blanked the Canadians 19-0 in the semifinal, sending them to the third-place playoff.
Mandy Marchak scored two tries and added a conversion to help beat the U.S. Alarie also added a try as the Canadians raced into a 17-0 lead.
New Zealand extended its lead at the top of the WSWS standings to eight points over England with just one event remaining — the Amsterdam Sevens in May. The Canadian women stand fifth.
New Zealand will win the series title if it makes it to the Cup semifinal in Amsterdam.