Preview: Hamilton Sevens
ROUND THREE: The Sevens World Series has delivered scintillating action in the opening two rounds – in Dubai and Cape Town – and it looks set to continue.
Heading into Hamilton, United States sit top of the standings for the first time and are closely followed by New Zealand and Olympic gold medallists Fiji in third.
The competition kicks off when Scotland take on France, before the other Pool C match sees series champions South Africa, who placed fourth in Dubai, face Kenya.
Next up will be the Pool B matches involving England, Samoa, Dubai and Cape Town runners-up the United States and invitational side Tonga.
Australia, who took home bronze in Hamilton last year, will face Argentina in Pool A followed by reigning New Zealand Sevens champions Fiji taking on Wales.
Pool D features hosts New Zealand, who open their weekend against Japan, alongside Spain and Canada
“Its good to be back and be back training with the boys and especially in Hamilton, where I’m from,” New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson said.
“To play in front of the home crowd is something I’m really looking forward to.
“The boys have played extremely well. In Dubai, they had a lot of injuries and they didn’t complain about it, they just kept on moving forward and got the job done. Watching them in Cape Town they did the same thing. It was pretty inspirational and it’s awesome to be back a part of it.
“We’ve got Japan first up and we really just want to start well in that first half. There is a lot of pressure playing here in front of our home fans, but we really want to do a good job at home and our families.”
South Africa believe they have the right mix of experience to bounce back from their slow start – youthful exuberance and proven skill.
BlitzBok captain Philip Snyman feels the slower than usual start to the season could just be the spark to fire up his team this weekend in Hamilton.
“We definitely have not had the best of starts this season, but I think the more our team play together and the more time they spend together the guys will gel,” Snyman said.
“After losing a couple of players we realised we can’t just pitch up for matches and we can’t rely on certain players to do the magic, we need to fire as a unit and to play together as a team. We have learned some valuable lessons.
“There are some really exciting youngsters coming through and I’m looking forward to this upcoming weekend.”
Snyman, 30, is South Africa’s most successful BlitzBok captain ever – with three World Series titles (two as captain).
Snyman (56 tournaments) will be heavily supported by the likes of Kyle Brown (67 tournaments), Chris Dry (64 tournaments) and Branco du Preez (63 tournaments), but it is rather the exciting potential of the likes of Impi Visser (2 tournaments), Selvyn Davids (7 tournaments) and Dewald Human (6 tournaments) that has the captain optimistic.
“The SA Rugby Sevens Academy has produced some real talent in recent years,” said Snyman.
“We have lost the likes of Rosko Specman, Dylan Sage and Tim Agaba from last year’s team and still have a couple of injured players back home, but all the right ingredients are in this year’s group to make it successful again.
“The old hands know what is needed and the young ones will bring it on. The fact that we had a slower start was a good thing as this time around we will pick up speed and gather momentum as we train and play together more and more.
“In previous years, we had fast starts and had to hold on towards the end of the season. This time it looks to be the other way around,” predicted the experienced captain.
Snyman missed last year’s trip to New Zealand due to injury and will play in Hamilton for the first time.
(Kick-off time is local – GMT plus 11 hours)
Scotland v France – 10.00
South Africa v Kenya – 10.22
England v Samoa – 10.44
United States v Tonga – 11.06
Australia v Argentina – 11.30
Fiji v Wales – 11.52
Spain v Canada – 12.14
New Zealand v Japan – 12.36
Scotland v Kenya – 13.48
South Africa v France – 14.10
England v Tonga – 14.32
United States v Samoa – 14.54
Australia v Wales – 15.20
Fiji v Argentina – 15.42
Spain v Japan – 16.04
New Zealand v Canada – 16.26
France v Kenya – 18.00
South Africa v Scotland – 18.22
Samoa v Tonga – 18.44
United States v England – 19.06
Argentina v Wales – 19.30
Fiji v Australia – 19.52
Canada v Japan – 20.14
New Zealand v Spain – 20.36