While the loss against Samoa was a bitter pill to swallow for the Blitzboks, they recovered with wins over France and New Zealand to claim overall fifth place in the tournament.
The Blitzboks, who were defending champions in Canada, never got going in the match against Samoa. A rash of penalties, poor defence and even worse handling saw them drop 21 points before the break against Samoa, who had not beaten South Africa in their last eight outings.
While the Blitzboks lost the services of Darren Adonis, Ryan Oosthuizen and Dewald Human due to injury before their match against Samoa, and Shaun Williams limped off in the second half, it was rather the lack of urgency on attack that will sit uncomfortable with their supporters.
A clinical performance was needed to overhaul the Samoans in the second half and although they scored three tries after the break, the Blitzboks conceded a fourth which all but sealed the win for Samoa.
The Blitzboks bounced back in their next match - the 5th place semi-final against France - in spectacular fashion. The South Africans scored six tries - three of those by Siviwe Soyizwapi - as they totally outplayed the European side, winning 36-7.
Ronald Brown opened the scoring after the Blitzboks seemingly found their attacking groove again and Soyizwapi scored two in quick succession. Christie Grobbelaar stepped inside defenders just before the break to ease South Africa into a 26-0 lead.
Soyizwapi scored his third in the second half following a delightful pass from Brown, and James Murphy added his name to the score sheet with a surge to the corner. France did score a late try via Jordan Sepho, but that was never going to be enough.
The South Africans finished the tournament on a strong note when they outplayed New Zealand 17-15 in the fifth-placed final.
New Zealand opened the scoring early when they outflanked the Blitzbok defence soon after the kick-off. The reply was instant though as a good defensive read by his inside backs allowed Soyizwapi regathering a stray pass and raced in to score. Ronald Brown converted for a 7-5 lead.
Soyizwapi then turned villain when he did not ground the ball in time while sliding over the line, denying his team a crucial try. Instead, it was the All Blacks Sevens who scored when Zain Davids was beaten with an in-out after sustained pressure by the Blitzboks was repelled.
That handed the lead back to New Zealand (10-7) and they extended that in the second half after the South African side was pinged for a scrum penalty. The All Blacks Sevens took a quick tap and scored.
This left South Africa with two scores needed and under three minutes to play and it was soon reduced to one when JC Pretorius was worked over. With two points the deficit, Murphy scored in the corner after Impi Visser won the restart and the ball was recycled wide.
Brown's conversion hit the cross bar, but the lead was good enough and South Africa the victors over last weekend's Singapore Sevens finalists.
Argentina won the tournament in Vancouver after beating Fiji 29-10 in the final for their first Cup title in 14 years, while Australia took the bronze medal after edging Samoa by 21-19.
CUP QUARTER-FINAL: South Africa 17 (0), Samoa 28 (21)
South Africa - Tries: Zain Davids, Selvyn Davids, Ronald Brown. Conversion: Selvyn Davids.
Samoa - Tries: Vaoasa Afa, Vaa Apelu Maliko (2), Faafoi Falaniko. Conversions: Melani Matavao (4).
5TH PLACE SEMI-FINAL: South Africa 36 (26), France 5 (0)
South Africa - Tries: Siviwe Soyizwapi (3), Ronald Brown, Christie Grobbelaar, James Murphy. Conversions: Ronald Brown (3).
France - Try: Jordan Sepho. Conversion: Marius Domon.
5TH PLACE FINAL: South Africa 17 (7), New Zealand 15 (10)
South Africa - Tries: Siviwe Soyizwapi, JC Pretorius, James Murphy. Conversion: Ronald Brown.
New Zealand - Tries: Caleb Tangitau, Kitiona Vai, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black.