The Cheetahs lived up to their pre-tournament favourites tag when they beat a determined Bulls team 26-19 on Day One at the PL Sevens in George.
In a ding-dong battle the lead changed hands several times, before a late winner by retired BlitzBok Philip Burger gave the Cheetahs the win.
However, the star of the match was new Springbok Raymond Rhule, who scored two tries and created the winner for the Cheetahs.
The other game that had the crowd on their collective feet saw the Sharks edge Western Province 24-22 with a late winner - a suggestion that the Sharks, the domestic inter-provincial champions, could challenge the Cheetahs for top honours.
Kaizer Chiefs opened their Sevens debut with a 22-14 win over the Lions.
In other early matches the All Stars beat the Boland Cavaliers 26-12, the Mighty Mohicans fought back from a 0-17 at half-time to beat the Vikings 26-24 and the Samurai (effectively South Africa's back-up squad to the BlitzBokke) edged the Living Ball 19-12.
The All Stars got the action underway with the opening try, scored by Juan Swanepoel, after good work from the likes of Ben Gollings, Stefan Basson and Zar Lawrence. Philip van Zyl pulled one back for Boland, but JW Jonker hit back immediately with a score after a chip-'n-chase to make it 12-5 at the half-time break. Dewald Pretorius scored first after the break, as the All Stars raced clear. Danwell Demas wrapped it up with the Stars' fourth try. Boland managed a consolation score after the full-time hooter, but it was too little too late - 26-12 to the All Stars.
In Game Two Shane Spring opened the scoring with a long-range try that started inside the Vikings' own 22 - with Spring both the creator and finisher. Fabian Juries then turned the clock back to his BlitzBok days, when he scored the Vikings' second and third five-pointers to make it 17-0 at the break. Mark Winter got the Mohicans on the board soon after the restart and then Andre Smit got them back into the contest with a second five-pointer. Josh Basingthwaighte scored the third try for the Mohicans, as they took the lead (19-17) three minutes into the second half. The Vikings awoke from their slumber, with a try by Anthony Volmink, but a try and conversion after the hooter gave the Mohicans a great come-from-behind 26-24 win.
The Bulls got underway with a controlled start that saw Travis Ismaiel open the scoring, before Johann Sadie getting one back for the Cheetahs. Raymond Rhule then got in on the act, before Clayton Blommetjies pulled one back for the Bulls to make it 14-12 to the Cheetahs at the break. Rhule started the second-half scoring with some sublime stepping and creative play by Sadie, but Christiaan de Bruin again hit back for the Bulls to tie it up at 19-all with less than a minute left on the clock. Philip Burger scored the winner, after Rhule set him up for a 60-metre sprint to the line.
Werner Kok opened the Scoring for the Samurai, after some great stepping by Justin Geduld, but Dirk Dippenaar got one back for the Living Ball outfit - leaving the teams level 7-all at the break. Alshaun Bock put the Living Ball into the lead, before Justin Geduld pulled one back for the Samurai - giving them a 14-12 lead with three minutes left on the clock. Albertus Kwagga Smith sealed the deal for Samurai with a strong run up the middle - 19-12 the final score.
Junior Bester opened the scoring for Kaizer Chiefs, after a patient build-up, but the Lions hit straight back through Jacques Nel. Shuaib Samaai then put the Chiefs back in the lead, giving them a 12-7 lead at the break. Ross Cronje scored to put the Lions in the lead with three minutes left on the clock, before Elmo Thomas regained the lead for the Chiefs. Jongi Nokwe sealed it for the Chiefs with a late score - 22-14
The Sharks wasted no time to open their account, Mzo Mbona cutting through the WP defence for the first try. Tim Swiel got one back for Province and scored a second as WP took a 12-7 lead. Peet Coetzee scored after the hooter to draw level, 12-all, at the break. Mzo Mbona got his second try, as the Sharks took the lead almost straight from the restart, before Chevandre van Schoor pulled it level midway through the second half. Dean Hammond put Province back in the lead with less than a minute left on the clock, but Mbona completed his hat-trick after the hooter - the conversion giving the Sharks a 24-22 win.
Day One results:
All Stars 26-12 Boland
Vikings 24-26 Mighty Mohicans
Blue Bulls 19-26 Cheetahs
Samurai 19-12 Living Ball
Kaizer Chiefs 22-14 Lions
Western Province 22-24 Sharks
(Kick-off time are local - GMT plus two hours)
All Stars v Cheetahs, 14.00
Vikings v Boland, 14.22
Blue Bulls v Mighty Mohicans, 14.44
Samurai v Sharks, 15.06
Kaizer Chiefs v Living Ball, 15.28
Western Province v Lions, 15.50
All Stars v Mighty Mohicans, 17:18
Vikings v Cheetahs, 17.40
Blue Bulls v Boland, 18.02
Samurai v Lions, 18.24
Kaizer Chiefs v Sharks, 18.46
Western Province v Living Ball, 19:08
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