South Africa kicked off and already the game produced the unexpected, as Emosi Vucago, one of the most accomplished 7s players in the world, flubbed an easy catch.
That gave South Africa a scrum 13 meters from the line, and they weren't about to give up that opportunity. Cecil Afrika sent the ball out to Paul Jordaan, who smartly popped it back to the multi-skilled Afrika for an easy try and a 7-0 lead.
Determined to recover from that mistake, Fiji played on. Vucago seemed desperate to make up for the mistake and popped a kick over the Springbok line. He ran into a South African player hoping to draw a late-hit penalty. Referee Andrew Lees of Australia wasn't impressed, even when Vucago remained on the ground in apparent pain.
Instead, South Africa got a 22 dropout and lifted the siege.
South Africa came back pressing for a try, repeatedly using the inside pass to make ground - often with Afrika doing the damage. One such pass allowed Afrika to link with Chris Dry, who popped an overhand pass to Branco du Preez for the score in the corner. 12-0.
Fiji finally got something going after that. Seremaia Burotu made big yards up the middle and then some sweet interplay between Vucago, Joeli Lutumailagi and Waqa Kotobalavu put South Africa back in their 22. All that remained was to find the right man and the right gap. The man was Watisoni Votu, and he was under the posts. 12-7, South Africa led.
On a hot day and with ten-minute halves, the players began to wilt a little in the sun, and perhaps seemed to welcome the final whistle. But not Afrika. From a scrum at midfield he darted ahead and sent a laser pass 30 meters to his left to Paul Jordaan who beat his man and streaked to the line. Rather than touch down, Jordaan floated the ball over to Chris Dry who was under the posts, thus ensuring Afrika's kick would be an easy one. 19-7 South Africa led at halftime.
The second half started sluggishly, with Fiji camped in the South Africa 22, but unable to really string anything together thanks to some ferocious South African tackling and a few spilled balls.
But Fiji did get something going, starting an attack from a quick lineout at midfield they worked through two tackles, with Watisoni Votu heavily involved. Finally Vucago slipped through the line, drew Afrika to him, and pooped an inside pass to Miteli Nacagilevu for the try. 19-14 South Africa led.
South Africa replied, eating up territory thanks to two Fiji penalties. They went for the lineout each time and this time eschewed the inside pass for something out wide. Afrika looked close to scoring, and then dished to the open Bernardo Botha, who just barely made the line. 24-14 South Africa.
But it wasn't over yet. Fiji had two minutes, and really needed just to score before time was up and then retain possession.
South Africa tried to put it away, though. Renfred Dazel attempted an impromptu drop goal right in front of the posts. Success would have meant Fiji would have to score two tries and convert both. It was blocked. But the move wasted seconds Fiji didn't have. With time winding down, Burotu made one last surge, but the touchline grabbed him as the hooter went.
South Africa, never champions in the USA before, had shaken the monkey from their backs, and Cecil Afrika had proved himself one of the best practitioners of 7s in the world.
South Africa 24
Tries: Afrika, du Preez, Dry, Botha
Convs: Afrika 2
Tries: Nacagilevu, Votu
Convs: Matawalu 2