Fri 20 Jul 2018 | 05:39

PREVIEW: Rugby World Cup Sevens

PREVIEW: Rugby World Cup Sevens
Fri 20 Jul 2018 | 05:39
PREVIEW: Rugby World Cup Sevens

SAN FRANCISCO: South Africa captain Philip Snyman said his team will need to hit the ground running as they launch their quest to claim a first World Cup Sevens crown in San Francisco on Friday.

The South Africans start the tournament installed as top seeds after another successful season on World Rugby’s International Sevens Circuit, where they snatched the overall crown in the final game of the season at the Paris Sevens.

However, despite their top seeding, the BlitzBoks have everything to prove when this weekend’s 24-team tournament kicks off at AT&T Park, the spectacular waterfront home of baseball’s San Francisco Giants.

Snyman said the straight knockout format being introduced at this year’s event, rather than the traditional round-robin group phase, leaves teams with little margin for error.

“There’s a mental switch we have to make to get out of the blocks as quickly as possible,” Snyman told AFP.

“Because if you make a slow start you might end up losing your first game. All it takes is for one mistake and you could be going home. So making a fast start is our main focus.

“If we get that right, we can be successful.”

South Africa have never won a seven-a-side World Cup, with their only appearance coming in the 1997 final, when a side led by the late, great Joost van der Westhuizen was beaten 21-24 by a Waisale Serevi-inspired Fiji.

The South Africans can expect another ferocious challenge from the Fijians, who have strengthened their squad with the addition of France-based stars Leone Nakarawa and Rugby League convert Semi Radradra.

Snyman, however, says South Africa are not looking past their first-round opponents, who will be either Ireland or Chile.

“There’s a lot of teams that can go all the way,” Snyman said.

“New Zealand are strong and then Fiji showed in the series they have talent. But we’re not going to add extra pressure to ourselves. We’re just looking at that first game.

“Whether it’s Ireland or Chile, we need to get over that first hurdle to be sure.”

The 31-year-old is quietly determined to improve South Africa’s World Cup Sevens record after twice reaching the quarterfinals in 2009 and 2013.

“At the beginning of the season we set goals for ourselves and winning the World Cup was definitely one of those goals this year,” Snyman said.

“In the previous two World Cups that I’ve been a part of, we managed to play in two quarterfinals. We want to show that we can compete in a one-off tournament like this World Cup. I believe we can be successful.”

Holders New Zealand meanwhile have only two survivors from their win in Moscow five years ago, captain Tim Mikkelson and Kurt Baker.

Joe Ravouvou will be the main attacking threat for the New Zealanders, who are undaunted by the challenge of attempting to become the first team in World Cup Sevens history to win consecutive titles.

“No team has ever won back-to-back World Cup titles since it’s started so we have certainly talked about that and about being the first team to change that,” said coach Clark Laidlaw.

Here is a list of past winners and finalists of the men’s event:

Venue: Edinburgh, Scotland
Winner: England
Runners-up: Australia

Venue: Hong Kong
Winner: Fiji
Runners-up: South Africa

Venue: Mar del Plata, Argentina
Winner: New Zealand
Runners-up: Australia

Venue: Hong Kong
Winner: Fiji
Runners-up: New Zealand

Venue: Dubai
Winner: Wales
Runners-up: Argentina

Venue: Moscow
Winner: New Zealand
Runners-up: England

Schedule for opening rounds of 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens:

Men’s tournament:
(Kick-off is local time – GMT minus seven hours)

Friday, July 20:

Pre-round of 16:

Kenya v Tonga – 13.01
Canada v Papua New Guinea – 13-23
France v Jamaica – 13.45
Wales v Zimbabwe – 14.07
Samoa v Uganda – 14.29
Russia v Hong Kong – 14.51
Japan v Uruguay – 15.13
Ireland v Chile – 15.35

Round of 16:

Scotland v Kenya or Tonga – 19.03
Argentina v Canada/PNG – 19.25
Australia v France/Jamaica – 19.47
England v Samoa/Uganda – 20.09
New Zealand v Russia/Hong Kong – 20.31
Fiji v Japan/Uruguay – 20.53
South Africa v Ireland/Chile – 21.15
United States v Wales/Zimbabwe – 21.37

Women’s tournament:
(Kick-off is local time – GMT minus seven hours)

Friday, July 20:

Round of 16:

Fiji v Spain – 10.00
France v Japan – 10.22
Russia v South Africa – 10.44
Canada v Brazil – 11.06
Australia v Papua New Guinea – 11.28
New Zealand v Mexico – 11.50
England v Ireland – 12.12

AFP & @rugby365com

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Preview: Rugby World Cup Sevens | Rugby365