The All Blacks Sevens side were denied a fifth straight title in South Africa this morning, in a fitting result for the home side who won the event at Nelson Mandela Bay for the first time.
Former South African president Mandela passed away last Friday and emotions ran high as South Africa launched a comeback to win the event for just the second time, the last being in 2008.
Tries by Scott Curry and Sherwin Stowers took New Zealand out to a 14-0 lead before Branco du Preez closed to gap to two points with a double, the second coming after Tim Mikkelson was sin-binned.
Down 14-12 at the break, South Africa scored the only try of the second half and it proved to be the match winner when Kyle Brown crossed over midway through the half.
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Earlier New Zealand reached the final for the eighth straight year after defeating Samoa 19-5 in the semifinals and easing by Kenya 19-0 in the quarters.
Fiji, who entered the event four points behind New Zealand on the sevens standings, lost to Samoa in the quarter-finals before beating France in the plate final.