Preview: Cape Town Sevens
WORLD SERIES ROUND TWO: The global roadshow moves into the shadows of the picturesque Table Mountain, but don’t let the serene setting fool you.
It will be full-on when the 16 teams go into battle on Saturday and Sunday.
The Cape Town leg of the World Series follows on from a thrilling opening round in Dubai last weekend, where New Zealand claimed the title for the first time in nine years.
Canada and Scotland get the tournament started on Saturday, before the other Pool D match sees Australia, who placed fourth in Dubai, face Wales.
Next up will be the Pool C matches involving Dubai bronze medallists England, Fiji, France and Kenya.
Argentina, runners-up in Cape Town last year, will face Spain in Pool B, followed by Dubai runners-up the United States taking on new core team Japan.
Defending champions New Zealand will join hosts South Africa, Samoa and invitational team Zimbabwe in Pool A.
South Africa will wear a specially-designed jersey as part of the centenary celebrations of the life of the late Nelson Mandela.
“We are really looking forward to this weekend,” BlitzBok captain Philip Snyman said.
“You only get one opportunity to play in front of your home crowd, 50,000 people supporting you and then 50 million people at home.
“I think we will really inspire them by the fact that we will play in a limited edition jersey, a one-off jersey, as a tribute to the late Madiba.
“We are really happy to play in Cape Town this weekend and I think, especially coming off a not so good Dubai tournament, the guys will be ready and fired up and we believe we will be successful this weekend.”
It will be a young New Zealand team that takes the field in Cape Town, with the five most experienced members of the squad – who boast 200 tournament caps between them – unavailable to play.
On the back of victory at the Dubai Sevens, New Zealand coach Clark Laidlaw was forced into naming a revamped team.
Etene Nanai-Seturo makes a return to the All Blacks Sevens team in Cape Town after last turning out in the black jersey at the London Sevens in June.
Nanai-Seturo, Trael Joass and Taylor Haugh flew to Cape Town this week after the All Blacks Sevens team picked up five injuries in the led up to and during the Dubai Sevens.
“Last weekend was quite testing with the injuries but we’ve had three good players join us who know how we want to play the game,” said Laidlaw.
“We spent a lot of last season building depth in our squad and we saw players like Dylan, Sione and Andrew really step up in Dubai.
“Looking at this weekend, we’re here to win. We think we can play better and the group we’ve got here is excited about getting back out there,” said Laidlaw.
England captain Tom Mitchell said they were pleased with a lot of the work done in Dubai, where they finished third.
“There were a few changes in the off-season and pre-season, trying to put those into effect and you always have grand ideas, you want to hit your straps and have everything perfect,” Mitchell said.
“That’s pretty unrealistic, but a lot of the work we did was really good.
“What we want to do is build on that this weekend coming, which is what you have to do with each tournament – try to get better and better.”
South African coach Neil Powell believes the improvement shown by his 13-man squad in the latter stages of last weekend’s tournament was enough to keep faith in the same players for Cape Town.
Powell named the same 12-man squad from last weekend to front up in their home tournament.
“I was pleased with the performances against Scotland and Fiji, our last two matches last Saturday, and I saw more of that fluency and urgency in training as well this week,” said Powell.
“Knowing the players, they will all be desperate to correct last weekend’s disappointments and they get a chance to redeem themselves this week.”
Powell called in Chris Dry and Mfundo Ndhlovu to train with the BlitzBoks this week, but was happy to tackle Pool A opponents New Zealand, Samoa and Zimbabwe with the same squad.
“We have learned lessons from last weekend, but that is also true for the other teams in the tournament,” said Powell.
“Everybody knows a little more of each other than was the case last week, so it will be tougher to break down defences, no doubt. That said, we know we can only improve from last week and that is a nice prospect.”
Powell said the focus remains on the first match against Samoa on Saturday.
“We had a tough battle against them in Dubai and this time it will not be different,” said Powell of their Pacific Island opponents, who were beaten 19-12 by the BlitzBoks last weekend.
“They are a very physical side with some big, fast players and we will have to be very sharp for our opening match.”
Australian will also field a virtually unchanged team, with only one change – Tim Anstee returning home with an injury.
Being added to the squad is Tom Connor, who swaps directly with Anstee and will earn his seventh Aussie Sevens cap in South Africa.
The Aussie Men’s Sevens team will be looking for improvement after their fourth-place finish in Dubai last weekend, as the hunt for valuable series points continues.
The top four teams at the conclusion of the Sevens World Series will earn automatic qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“This week for us has been about our mental and physical preparation and making sure we get the right combination of recovery and training after a big first round in Dubai,” Australian coach Tim Walsh said.
“Wales, Canada and Scotland present us three teams with three different styles of Rugby, so our focus is on each moment of each game first and foremost.”
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus two hours)
Scotland v Canada – 10.15
Australia v Wales – 10.37
Fiji v France – 10.59
England v Kenya – 11.21
Argentina v Spain – 11.43
United States v Japan – 12.05
South Africa v Samoa – 12.27
New Zealand v Zimbabwe – 12.49
Scotland v Wales – 13.36
Australia v Canada – 13.58
Fiji v Kenya – 14.20
England v France – 14.42
Argentina v Japan – 15.04
United States v Spain – 15.26
South Africa v Zimbabwe – 15.48
New Zealand v Samoa – 16.10
Canada v Wales – 16.57
Australia v Scotland – 17.19
France v Kenya – 17.41
England v Fiji 18.03
Spain v Japan – 18.50
United States v Argentina – 19.12
Samoa v Zimbabwe – 19.34
New Zealand v South Africa – 19.56