South Africa are now 19 points behind New Zealand in second place with the last of the nine IRB Series tournaments to be played in London this weekend.
For the Blitzboks to claim the title it would require them winning in London, bagging the 22 points, and New Zealand failing to gain more than two points: a near-impossible task.
Their recent slump coincided with the loss of their two most influential players – captain Kyle Brown and playmaker Cecil Afrika – to injury.
Neil Powell’s men had won back-to-back titles in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas, and finished as runners-up in Dubai, Wellington and Tokyo. Until that point their worst performance had been fourth place at the Gold Coast in Australia.
In Hong Kong, though, the season started to unravel, starting with a concussion for Brown. He only played three minutes in the entire tournament, while chief Afrika suffered a groin strain.
Defeat in the Cup quarterfinals to England relegated SA to the Plate, which they claimed with a win over Wales and collected 13 points in the process – their lowest haul of the season at that stage.
New Zealand, meanwhile, won in Hong Kong to open a seven-point gap on SA at the top of the standings.
On the eve of the Glasgow tournament SA were dealt a huge blow when Brown and Afrika were withdrawn.
Brown’s influence has been so crucial that in six tournaments he has earned an IRB World Sevens Player of the Year nomination.
The Blitzboks never found their rhythm, losing in the Cup quarterfinals to Scotland.
Again relegated to the Plate, SA failed to make an impact there, losing 14-7 to the Paul Treu-coached Kenya in the semifinals. That meant a meagre 10-point haul from Glasgow which ultimately handed the title to New Zealand.