HAWKEYE VIEW: Fresh start

Thu, 28 Jan 2016 12:31
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EXCLUSIVE: rugby365 columnist Matt Hawkins returns with his first contribution on Sevens for 2016 - an Olympic year.

The New Year brings with it new opportunity and a fresh start, but more importantly we are now actually in an Olympic year and reality is starting to set in for everyone involved.

Going in to the last leg of the Sevens World Series in Cape Town, South Africa, there was only one team that was not forced to make changes.

Some teams were hit exceptionally hard by injuries.

New Zealand were in such a bad state that at one point that were playing with six men on the field, because there was no one left on the bench to suit up and fill that seventh spot. That has to be a first time in the modern age that any team has experienced that.

That being said, the now home team in the new City of Cape Town, who was having its inaugural year hosting the Sevens Tournament, were also hit hard and with injuries and were coming off a fairly average performance by their standards and expectations. Fiji looked unstoppable in the opening Round In Dubai and in their semifinal against New Zealand were just sensational.

Cape Town managed to roll the dice and create a betting man's worst nightmare. We were left with France, Kenya, Argentina and South Africa in the semifinals. For those that were betting on the dark horse and underdog, you were giggling at these match-ups. More importantly it provided the home team a magnificent opportunity to take the Cup in the Green Point-based stadium, the first time out.

Dreams do come true and they succeeded in emphatic fashion.

Looking forward to the first tournament of 2016, Wellington has been a very unpredictable tournament in recent years - with the weather not always playing its part.

However, more importantly, the crowd has been woeful and some feel it could be on its last legs, so watch this space.

Wellington currently is forecasting a chance of wet weather, which will make for a very interesting prospect.

The Cake Tin, as the Wellington stadium is affectionately known, has seen brighter days, but when the elements play their role, the stadium becomes a cauldron of unhappiness for the teams. The surface is extremely short and fast, it's as wide as a field gets and provides acres for the speedsters to get up and moving early.

Going in to this tournament there are three narratives you want to be watching very closely.

First we have a stalwart in Kenya's Collins Injera who is primed to take a few more steps closer to an incredible achievement as the highest try scorer on the circuit in history. Just 22 tries are needed for Collins to take his seat at the throne as the king of try scorers - which among this illustrious group is no small feat.

With eight tournaments left this year, he'll need to average 2.75 tries per tournament moving forward. I believe he is history in the making.

The next narrative has to be focused on the current standings.

Right now if you take a look at the current standings, you would be hard pressed to say that anyone saw the current top five as the top five at the start of 2016.

The remarkable thing is each of those that find themselves positioned incredibly well at the start of 2016, they all deserve it and have shown us all some brilliant rugby, but all five play the game extremely differently, but the athletes themselves physically are so varied.

The question that you have to ask yourself is: If these are the Top Five, who rounds out the Top 10.
6. France
7. New Zealand
8. Australia
9. Kenya
10. Scotland

That is truly remarkable, but that's exactly what the Sevens World Series should be, the impossible is possible and the team that executes and takes their chance in a 14-minute window climbs the ladder.

The age old tale is always consistency and that ultimately is the recipe for success.

Now the most intriguing of all the storylines is that of the selection and debut of the most high profile and hyped rugby player in the world currently.

Sonny Bill Williams, aka SBW, will be donning the New Zealand Sevens jersey for the first time and has the potential to completely blow many theories and previously believed hypothesis right out of the water.

I am as excited as the rest of you out their and fireworks are going to be going off the first time he takes to the field, none of us although we can speculate, really know what to expect and what effect its going to have on the game, now and in the future. New Zealand have selected a squad that will be their to walk away with the Cup and nothing less!

By Matt Hawkins
@polarbearkzn
@rugby365com