A minute earlier South Africa had taken a 17-14 lead through a Libbie Janse van Rensburg penalty goal, but they failed to control the ball from the restart, Fiji worked it through a number of phases and at the end, Karalaini Naisewa scored the match-winning try and broke the Women Boks’ hearts.
After yet another slow start, the Springbok Women stepped things up in the second half, with Aseza Hele and Janse van Rensburg making the Fijian defence work hard, and the South Africans managed to keep their opponents score-less for 39 minutes, but another unforced error ended up costing them victory.
The South Africans struggled to get their hands on the ball for long periods during the first half, and were also forced to play most of the rugby on their side of the half-way line with some of their kicks gifting the ball to Fiji from which they could launch counter-attacks, while they also struggled to stop Siteri Rasolea from winning lots of territory with strong carries.
Discipline was also costly as the Springbok Women conceded eight penalties to Fiji’s three before the break, as well as a yellow card to Nomawethu Mabenge for a deliberate knock-down.
While the SA wing was in the sin bin, Fiji scored their first try through her opposite number, Ilisapeci Delaiwau, with Lavena Cavuru’s successful conversion putting them in a 7-0 lead after 13 minutes.
The Women Boks were looking good when they had the opportunity to play, with the scrum again dominant and Hele putting in some storming runs, but unfortunately that didn’t happen enough and they were on defence for most of the half.
They finally got into a good field position following a mistake by Fiji and after a patient build-up, Zintle Mpupha finally found some space to score South Africa’s first try, and Janse van Rensburg’s conversion made it 7-7 with mere minutes left until half-time.
Unfortunately, they seemed to lose some concentration and on the stroke of half-time, Akanisi Sokoiwasa went over for a second try for Fijiana to five them a 14-7 lead at the break.
Fiji started the second half like they finished the first, but a try by Vika Matarugu was cancelled after the TMO spotted an earlier knock-on.
That seemed the galvanise the South Africans, and with a number of replacements coming on, the Women Boks played with a spring in their step, working their way upfield and into scoring territory.
They scored after an hour and it was appropriate that Hele barged her way over, the try just reward for a massive performance by the South African No 8.
Janse van Rensburg converted to make it 14-14, setting up a big final quarter, but sadly for the Springbok Women, they were still guilty of making unforced errors and conceding silly penalties – SA gave away 11 second half penalties – giving Fiji attacking opportunities.
Cavuru had a shot at goal with three minutes to go, but pulled it wide and after that, South Africa put together a good phase of attacking rugby, which ended with a penalty 35 metres out on the angle, but Janse van Rensburg was spot-on with the kick, to put her side in the lead by three points.
But the restart went back to Fiji, Naisewa did what was necessary and the match finished in misery for a Springbok Women’s team that know they could have won this one.
Despite the result, there was joy for Zenay Jordaan, who became the most-capped Springbok Women’s player when she came on for her 35th Test cap after the break, while Janse van Rensburg’s seven points from the boot saw her become the first SA women’s player to pass 100 Test points. Mpupha extended her record as South Africa's leading try scorer in Tests with her 17th five-pointer.
Springbok Women 17 (7) – Tries: Zintle Mpupha, Aseza Hele. Conversions: Libbie Janse van Rensburg (2). Penalty goal: Janse van Rensburg.
Fiji 21 (14) – Tries: Ilisapeci Delaiwau, Akanisi Sokoiwasa, Karalaini Naisewa. Conversions: Lavena Cavuru (3).