Preview: New Zealand Sevens
ROUND THREE: The first World Sevens Series tournament of this Olympic year will take place in Hamilton, New Zealand on Saturday and Sunday – January 25 and 26.
Hosts New Zealand are looking forward to continuing the impressive form they showed in the opening rounds – second placed behind South Africa in Dubai and beating the BlitzBoks in Cape Town a week later.
It has left the two teams tied at the top of the standings on 41 points each.
France (29 points), Argentina (24), England (24) and Fiji (23) head the chase below that.
“We get to play all around the world, but you only get one home tournament and we’re lucky enough to get our own,” New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson said.
“We can take a lot of confidence from the last two tournaments.
“We’ve been training really hard the last couple of weeks and we’ve got
“A couple of new boys coming in who will hopefully lift the level again.
“It would be everything to win this tournament – we’ll have our friends and family in the stands so we really want it to be something special.”
Also drawn in Pool A, New Zealand will play Wales and last season’s runners-up the United States on Saturday, before their final pool game against Scotland on Sunday.
Last year’s winners and series title holders Fiji have so far failed to secure a spot on the podium this season.
Their captain, Meli Derenalagi says his team has learned a lot from Dubai and Cape Town.
“We have learned a lot about our weaknesses but we will try to improve this upcoming weekend,” he said.
“The preparation has gone well for this weekend but we know we really need to go out and deliver now. The supporters and fans we have in Hamilton make us feel like we are playing back at home and we are looking forward to this weekend.”
They will play in Pool D against Argentina, Australia and Samoa.
The BlitzBoks head up Pool B – where they will face Kenya, England and Japan.
The BlitzBoks feel they will have to scale a proverbial Everest in Hamilton.
BlitzBoks forward Impi Visser is looking forward to the challenge.
Visser missed out when the team was named for the 2019/20 World Series opener in Dubai and travelled to the desert city as a member of the Academy team.
The Academy side, which also featured the likes of Branco du Preez, Cecil Afrika, Werner Kok and Angelo Davids – all of whom are also part of the Hamilton squad – won the International Invitational tournament and eased the worries for Visser.
“We all know that 2020 will be a tough year in that regard as coach Neil Powell wanted to give the wider group an opportunity to stake a claim for the final squad that will go to the Olympics,” said Visser.
“Not to be part of the first squad for Dubai was disappointing, but only mentally. Physically, I was still on the field with like likes of Branco, Cecil, Werner and Angelo, which demanded that you give your best.
“You do feel bad when you are not in the team, but there is a bigger picture and it is not the end of the world.
“Emotionally one gets down a bit and there are some thoughts going through your head. You question your abilities, but for me, that only lasted for a short while. ”
“It is all about how you use the opportunity that you are given, and I am keen to grab mine this weekend,” added the Pongola native.
Visser was the official reserve for the Cape Town leg and got a call-up on the final day when Kurt-Lee Arendse picked up an injury.
He played in the final, where New Zealand edged the BlitzBoks 7-5.
He was named into the squad to travel to New Zealand.
(Kick-off time is local – GMT plus 13 hours)
Saturday, January 25
Ireland v Canada – 11.57
France v Spain – 12.19
Kenya v England – 12.41
South Africa v Japan – 13.03
Argentina v Australia – 13.25
Fiji v Samoa – 13.47
Scotland v United States – 14.09
New Zealand v Wales – 14.31
Ireland v Spain – 17.24
France v Canada – 17.46
Kenya v Japan – 18.08
South Africa v England – 18.30
Argentina v Samoa – 19.05
Fiji v Australia – 19.35
Scotland v Wales – 20.05
New Zealand v United States – 20.33
Sunday, January 26
Canada v Spain – 11.07
France v Ireland – 11.29
England v Japan – 11.51
South Africa v Kenya – 12.13
Australia v Samoa – 12.35
Fiji v Argentina – 12.57
United States v Wales – 13.19
New Zealand v Scotland – 13.41
Semifinals get underway at 02.41
Cup Final will kick off at 20.56