Thu 25 Nov 2021 | 02:00

Preview: Dubai Sevens

Preview: Dubai Sevens
Thu 25 Nov 2021 | 02:00
Preview: Dubai Sevens
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WORLD SERIES ROUND ONE: The global sevens series returns with an action pack weekend in Dubai.

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The new season will start will see the Blitzboks lock horns with Ireland Sevens, followed by their other two Pool C matches on Friday – against Japan and Great Britain.

South Africa Sevens are the defending champions following their unbeaten run in the shortened 2021 World Series held in Canada in September.

Unfortunately for Neil Powell’s side, prolific wing Angelo Davids is still injured. Davids set a new individual try-scoring record for the Vancouver event with 10 tries, but fractured his hand in the final against Kenya and is still not fit enough to return.

Four other players who featured in Canada were also ruled out, but the Blitzboks will be boosted by the presence of the experienced duo of Branco du Preez and Impi Visser.

If the Blitzboks enjoy a clean sweep of wins in the pool stages and then win their quarter-final, they’d match their best ever World Series winning streak of 16 matches, set between 2008-09.

The Springbok Sevens and Ireland – who impressed in reaching the Vancouver semi-finals – have the honour of kicking off the men’s competition in the 2022 World Series and the Blitzboks will need no reminding that they were held to a 19-19 draw the last time they met in Los Angeles in February 2020.

With the popular Dubai event starting on Friday, Powell said this week’s training week felt like a short week, but he is nevertheless happy with the team’s preparations.

“We had a good week here, although we we’ve done most of our preparation work in Stellenbosch,” said Powell.

“So it was a case of fine-tuning to make sure everyone are on the same page and that the guys are ready to get going.”

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With a few familiar players missing from the squad due to injury, the Blitzboks have included two uncapped players in Tiaan Pretorius (forward) and Shilton van Wyk (outside back), and Powell is looking forward to the two newcomers getting their first taste of World Series action.

“They’ve been training with us for the last 18 months, so they know what is expected of them,” said Powell.

With a Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup looming at the end of a very busy season, Powell is understandably keen to see his charges gaining momentum early on.

“It’s a long season and we are starting off with a tough game against Ireland, who is a very structured team, so it will be important to start well,” cautioned Powell.

“We’ve done proper analysis on them to make sure we know what we up against. If we don’t do well in terms of our effort and [the] implementation of our roles on the field, then we could find ourselves in trouble.”

Speaking at yesterday’s official captains’ photo session in Dubai, Blitzbok skipper Siviwe Soyizwapi said: “When the World Series calendar came out, to see such a busy schedule again was really exciting for us and we got straight down to work to prepare for it. The excitement level is high and we are really looking forward to it.

“Dubai is a great spot and we have done really well here over the years with good success. We can definitely take confidence from our recent results in Canada and it was really good for some younger guys to come into the squad and get experience at that level.”

New era for Fiji

As for Pool A, all eyes will be on double Olympic champions Fiji, who did not have the opportunity to compete in Canada. Head coach Gareth Baber has moved on and while it is something of a new era for the team, the skill levels in the squad will no doubt be as high as always, even with several changes of personnel.

Josua Vakurunabili and Waisea Nacuqu are the only players remaining from the gold medal-winning team at the Tokyo Olympics, with the absentees including Jerry Tuwai, the World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Decade. Tuwai will miss the Dubai double bill as he prepares for his wedding which is set to take place next month.

Australia, Canada and France will attempt to make it as uncomfortable as possible for Fiji in Pool A.

Pool B looks as wide open as any. After collecting the bronze medal in Tokyo, Argentina will have the respect of Kenya, USA and Spain.

Kenya finished second and third in Vancouver and Edmonton, while any USA squad containing legends of the game like Carlin Isles, Folau Niua, Martin Iosefo and Perry Baker – who have 221 tournament appearances between them – has to be feared. Meanwhile, don’t discount Spain, as they chase their 100th World Series win.

 

Pools

 

Preview: Dubai Sevens

 

Schedule
(Kick-off time is local)

Friday, November 26

South Africa v Irland – 09.32
Great Britain v Japan – 09.54
USA v Kenya – 10.16
Argentina v Spain – 10.38
Australia v Canada – 11.00
Fiji v France – 11.22
South Africa v Japan – 13.24
Great Britain v Ireland – 13.46
USA v Spain – 14.08
Australia v France – 14.30
Fiji v Canada – 14.52
Ireland v Japan – 16.08
Great Britain v South Africa – 16.40
Kenya v Spain – 17.02
Argentina v USA – 17.24
Canada v France – 18.35
Fiji v Australia – 19.33

PV: 14
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