The South Africans started impressively by beating Senegal 53-0 after leading 24-0 at halftime. Rights Mkhari scored three tries, while Nadine Roos dotted down twice in the nine try romp.
The match was played in overcast conditions and high winds, but once Mkhari got her team going in the second minute, it became a rout.
Mkhari scored the first two tries of the match, both when put in space on the wing, before Roos stamped her mark on the match, combining well with Mathrin Simmers to score the first of her two five-pointers, while wing Alichia Arries scored her first international try.
Mkhari scored from the restart after the break, with Roos getting her second soon after. Liske Lategan and Sne Shozi also added to their try-scoring tallies in the Green and Gold before sevens debutant, Anacadia Minnaar, got her first try for South Africa.
In the second match, against Zimbabwe, the intensity dropped. It took the South Africans eight minutes to score against their northern neighbours when Lategan ran strongly to put her side in the lead after a scoreless first half.
The SA attack was not great, with too many handling errors hampering their effort, but strong defence pinned the Zimbabweans in their half of the field. They were forced into errors, with Roos and Lusanda Dumke both getting five-pointers from turnovers to secure a 15-0 winning margin.
Springbok Women's Sevens coach, Paul Delport, was not pleased with the dip in form.
“It was a bit of an up and down performance today, but also one where some good lessons were learned,” Delport said afterwards.
“Firstly, we need to pitch up for every match. Traditionally, at this tournament, there were just a couple of strong teams, but today we saw six or seven of them, which is great for rugby in Africa and the development of the game on the continent.”
Delport said his team are still in it to win it: “We need the good performances again tomorrow. We speak about controlling the game and the possession and if we do that well, things will work out for us. The team did execute well at times, and we will be looking for more of that on day two.”
The match against Ghana starts at 11h03 (SA time), with live streaming available on Rugby Africa’s and Tunisia Rugby’s Facebook pages.
South Africa 53 (24), Senegal 0 (0)
South Africa – Tries: Rights Mkhari (3), Nadine Roos (2), Alichia Arries, Liske Lategan, Snenhalnhla Shozi, Anacadia Minnaar. Conversions: Eloise Webb (2), Nadine Roos (2).
South Africa 15 (0), Zimbabwe 0 (0)
South Africa – Tries: Liske Lategan, Nadine Roos, Lusanda Dumke.