The Springbok Sevens finished second in Group A to set up a difficult cup quarterfinal against Fiji at the George Sevens.
In what should have been an easy group for the hosts, the Boks and Kenya both finished on eight log points, but the latter topped the group on points difference.
This sees Kenya have an easier cup quarterfinal fixture against Australia, while South Africa will face Fiji, who knocked the Boks out at the same stage in Dubai.
The deciding fixture was the last match of day one, where the Boks drew with Kenya thanks to a last-minute conversion from Mzwandile Stick after the home side came from behind for a 12-all draw. A win would have seen them top the group.
The Boks had more scoring oppportunities but they lacked the composure to finish them off. Kenya then took a 12-point lead through two tries from a quick penalty tap and a kick and chase.
Stick then brought the Boks within reach with a try and Deon Helberg crossed the chalk in the dying moments to set up the draw.
Earlier, the Blitzboks secured a 29-5 win against Zimbabwe in their second match.
At half-time, the Boks found themselves level with their African conuterparts with the score at 5-5.
But a brace from Helberg and tries from Marius Schoeman and Cecil Afrika saw the Boks record their second win.
In their opening group fixture against France, the Boks produced a strong showing inspired by a Afrika hat-trick.
It took less than a minute for the Boks to score the first points of the game as Afrika showed great pace to run through a gap in the French defence to score the first try. Stick added the extras.
Moments later, the home side scored another try, this time through Chase Minaar after working the ball out wide.
The Boks continued to dominate the first half and kept France pinned in their own 22, forcing the errors.
This led to another three tries as Stick grabbed a brace and Afrika had another blistering run down the touchline to give the Boks a 33-0 lead at half-time.
France hit back with two early converted tries in the second stanza, but Afrika sealed a 38-14 win as he completed his hat-trick for the Boks’ only score after the break.
Springbok Sevens day one results:
South Africa 38 France 14
South Africa 29 Zimbabwe 5
South Africa 12 Kenya 12
Springbok Sevens – Paul Delport (c), Mpho Mbiyozo, Chase Minnaar, Frankie Horne, Cecil Afrika, Marius Schoeman, Kyle Brown, JW Jonker, Shaun Venter, Mzwandile Stick, Deon Helberg, MJ Mentz.
By Gareth Duncan