CARSON, California (AP) — South Africa's defense of the rugby sevens world series title was in jeopardy after it failed to reach the quarterfinals of the series-ending Los Angeles Sevens on Saturday.
A month after winning their first Commonwealth Games gold medal, the South Africans lost to the United States and New Zealand in their pool in Carson.
South Africa has led the nine-leg series since winning the first four tournaments, but hasn't finished better than fifth since January. It came to Los Angeles at risk of being beaten to the series title by Australia, Argentina or Fiji, and all three rivals advanced to the quarters.
Australia swept its pool, including a come-from-behind 19-14 win over Argentina. To win its first world series, Australia has to reach the final, or finish at least third as long as Argentina doesn't succeed.
Argentina also seeks a maiden world series triumph, and can achieve it by winning Los Angeles and Australia not reaching the final.
Fiji also cleaned up its pool including Wales, France and Ireland, and could win the series if it wins Los Angeles and Australia finishes no higher than fourth.
In the quarterfinals on Sunday, Australia faces Kenya, Fiji meets the host United States, Argentina has unbeaten Samoa, and New Zealand plays Ireland.
Series leader South Africa stumbled in Los Angeles' opening match, when the U.S. blasted out to 21-0 and won 21-7.
New Zealand used the same formula, going up 17-0 by halftime. South Africa hit back with two late converted tries to trail 17-14 and had possession after the fulltime hooter, but knocked on in New Zealand territory.
South Africa coach Neil Powell was disappointed by his team's defense, but said they would be ready for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town in two weeks.
“They will definitely be ready come the World Cup,” Powell said. "This will be even more motivation for us than being successful this weekend.”
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