Preview: Sydney Sevens
WORLD SERIES ROUND FOUR: Fiji will be seeking a third title in a row in this year’s series’, having won in Cape Town (Round Two) and Hamilton (Round Three).
Fiji sits atop of the standings, along with the United States, who has finished second in all three tournaments to date.
However, Fiji has never won the Sydney leg of the World Series.
The joint series leaders, with the United States, Fiji looked in their best possible form when winning the Hamilton final against the Yanks.
The support the side manages to get from expats spread around the world in a great Fijian Diaspora has been an eye-opener for coach Gareth Baber.
“We don’t have a home tournament, so the success that Fiji has always had has been off the back of going to places there really shouldn’t be Fijians,” Baber said.
“But they are, they’re all around the world,” the Welshman said.
While the Sevens have been held in Sydney for three years, Fiji hasn’t yet claimed the main prize.
They know they hadn’t performed well.
“It’s a great place to come and play, a sporting nation and the Australian team is putting pressure on all of us to get those spots in the Olympics.
“We know there is going to be a Fijian crowd here for us again, which is superb. It is one we want to put to bed, in terms of the last couple of years and make sure we carry on with the quality that we showed in Hamilton,” he told rugby.com.au.
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The Hamilton win reflected the intense work put in on fitness and discipline during the Christmas break and enabled the side to show consistent strength both in attack and defence.
“Generally, we are getting more difficult to score against, which is great,” he said.
“We were particularly ruthless when we did have [the ball], as accurate as I have seen us. That comes from a lot of hard work off the field, over the number of years that we have been together.”
United States captain Madison Hughes believes his team could finally kick on and win in a Final.
“We are excited about the weekend and we are playing well,” Hughes said.
“Of course we finished second again last weekend in Hamilton.
“It is great to make the finals but at some stage, we want to take the next step for a victory.
“[We are] optimistic about doing that, we have worked hard and it is just our form in the finals that has let us down.
“We came out of last weekend reasonably unscathed. We did lose Perry Baker to injury but the rest of the squad is fine.”
One team attempting to break through the stranglehold the United States and Fiji have taken on the World Sevens series is New Zealand.
New Zealand has only won the Australian Sevens leg three times, and only once in Sydney – in 2015-16.
They go into the tournament in third place on the series ladder, but will be without skipper Scott Curry – who is out with an ankle injury and Dylan Collier who has a hamstring injury.
Sione Molia has been named co-captain with Tim Mikkelson and said nothing would be changing in the team dynamic, as they continued their way through the series.
“It’s almost like a home tournament as well, with all the Kiwis coming out and cheering us on,” he said.
Molia said the lessons from their third-place finish in Hamilton last weekend were: “Learning the critical details we needed to execute through the weekend as well as the opportunities we missed out on and I guess going back and looking at what we do really well and focusing on all those little things.”
Justin Geduld said the desire still burns strong for the defending series champions South Africa – despite their sloppy start to the season.
Geduld, who was hugely instrumental in the BlitzBoks successes in the last two seasons, is confident that the BlitzBoks will bounce back and land on their feet after a slower than usual start to the series.
“We have been in situations like this before and we have responded,” said Geduld, who has scored 872 points (89 tries, 212 conversions and a penalty goal) in his 200 appearances.
“We are still a good team and the talent is there to deliver winning results.
“As soon as that jersey goes over your head, the desire to represent your country and to play for the guy next to you is there. To do your best is a given.”
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus 11 hours)
Scotland v Spain – 09.00
New Zealand v Wales – 09.22
Canada v Kenya – 09.44
United States v France – 10.06
Australia v Argentina – 10.28
South Africa v Tonga – 10.50
Samoa v England – 11.12
Fiji v Japan – 11.34
Scotland v Wales – 14.28
New Zealand v Spain – 14.50
Canada v France – 15.12
United States v Kenya – 15.34
Australia v Tonga – 15.56
South Africa v Argentina – 16.18
Samoa v Japan – 16.40
Fiji v England – 17.02
Spain v Wales – 18.33
New Zealand v Scotland – 18.55
Kenya v France – 19.17
United States v Canada – 19.39
Argentina v Tonga – 20.01
South Africa v Australia – 20.23
England v Japan – 20.45
Fiji v Samoa – 21.07