HAWKEYE VIEW: MOMENT OF TRUTH

Fri, 15 May 2015 09:26
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EXCLUSIVE: RUGBY365 COLUMNIST MATT HAWKINS LOOKS AT THE LONDON LEG OF THE SEVENS WORLD SERIES - THE EVENT HE CALLS THE MOMENT OF TRUTH.

Ladies and Gentleman, this weekend has been nine months in the making and one we have been waiting for.

London is the grand finale and the culmination of a very arduous and soul sapping season.

It's going to be action packed and filled with teary-eyed emotion and jubilation for the team that reaches the peak.

For others it will be time for reflection on opportunities missed, small victories won.

For the rest that are still standing, it will be a great sigh of relief and will draw to a close a long and treacherous journey.

The Scotland stop created some separation and daylight for some and for others it only made things worse.

Before we discuss and evaluate that, it has to be said and recognized that it was a particularly special occasion when South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand all pre-qualified for the Olympics.

That qualification race has been the footnote of the 2014/15 Sevens World Series since the start of the season in Australia.
 
The game that had the greatest impact was the quarterfinal between Fiji and South Africa.

The No.1 and No.2 teams on the Sevens World Series circuit came face to face on Day Two- in what could have been the championship game.

The team that won would go through to the top four and secure very precious points in the race that has been to close to call and force the loser to fight it out for fifth spot and the maximum amount of points.

Fiji triumphed and in doing so maximized the opportunity and finished as champions of Scotland.

South Africa fought hard and managed to finish fifth, but was that enough?

The points difference between first place finish, 22 points, and fifth place finish, 13 points, was enough to launch Fiji to No.1 on the Sevens World Series.

Fiji sits on top now with a total points tally of 147, South Africa are in second with 142 and New Zealand in third with 139 points.

At this stage the easiest way to explain the mathematical drama that will unfold this weekend is by evaluating best-case scenarios for each team.

We'll start with Fiji. For them its pretty simple, you make it to the final against anyone and you clinch the World Series. You make it to the top three with South Africa finishing fourth or worse and you win. Where things start to get blurry is if South Africa win the London Sevens and Fiji Finish third, they both end up with a points tally of 164 and are all tied up.

For South Africa it starts to get a little trickier. They need Fiji to basically finish fourth or worse and they have to win the London Sevens. Every place they finish lower than No.1, they have to hope that Fiji finishes at least three spots below them, so if South Africa finish second they get 19 points, then Fiji must finish a maximum of fifth, which would give them 13 points. That gives South Africa a grand total of 161 and Fiji 160. Based on current form, I can't see this happening, but this is Sevens.

For the Kiwi's the picture is far worse and at this stage I am hard pressed to say that we could see them claiming the 2014/15 Sevens World Series title. They do, however, posses the opportunity to disrupt either South Africa or Fiji's plans, but would have to wait for the Final to do so.

As we take a look at the pools, we see a pretty interesting story develop:

Pool A crosses over with Pool D and Pool B crosses over with Pool C. The first seed always plays the second seed in the opposing Pool.

Based on that there is a chance that South Africa and Fiji could meet each other in the quarterfinals and with that decide our Series winner, but there is an even stronger likelihood that these two teams will meet in the semifinals. If Fiji wins that match, that pushes them through to the Final and there would be no one at that stage that could beat them to the title.

If South Africa wins that race, they have to hope and pray that they finish the job and Fiji loses their third-and-fourth-place play-off match, which would have South Africa claiming the Series title.

Regardless of who your supporting this weekend, the title race is always a special one to watch and this year with the Olympic Qualification attached to the drama, its only delivered greater importance and higher tension to every tournament and every knock out stage.

Its been a thrilling journey which has seen both Fiji and South Africa struggle at times and in others play some of the best Sevens to grace a rugby pitch and mesmerized audiences around the world.

In the last two important storylines going in to the weekend, Australia (101 points) unfortunately stumbled in Japan and have not been able to recover.

England (117 points) however found sixth gear in Japan and won the Leg and have not looked back since. England just need to make the quarterfinals in this weekends tournament, which just so happens to be their home tournament and in doing so, they secure themselves an automatic Olympic Qualification on behalf of Great Britain.

For Japan and Portugal the fight for relegation is not the fight you want to be in, but it is a very real struggle.

At this stage Portugal with a nine point differential should feel fairly confident that they will be a core team again next year on what promises to be an incredible 2015/16 Sevens World Series.

By Matt Hawkins
@polarbearkzn
@rugby365com

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