PREVIEW: Sydney Sevens
ROUND FOUR: The next leg of the World Sevens Series takes place at Parramatta’s Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on February 1-2.
Sydney follows a spectacular tournament in Hamilton, New Zealand, last weekend where the hosts were victorious in the Cup Final.
Meanwhile, The BlitzBoks have not forgotten the disappointment of a sub-standard performance last week, but stand-in captain Stedman Gans says this has been overshadowed by the excitement of a new opportunity to be the best team they can be and to play to their potential.
Gans will lead the Springbok Sevens team for the second time in the Sydney Sevens, where they will line up against France, Argentina and Samoa in Pool B at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta on Saturday.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) January 26, 2020
With the 10th place finish in New Zealand behind them and valuable lessons learned from the rare under-achievement in the third leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series, the BlitzBoks – who are in second place on the overall log with France – will enter their pool as third seeds. With the format of the tournament again seeing only the pool winners advancing to the Cup semi-final, the pressure on the side will be intense.
Gans placed the blame for the Hamilton disappointment squarely on the team, rather than the competition format, and said the experience within the squad was sufficient not to allow the competition structure to impact on their performances.
“Our squad had close to 400 tournaments worth of experience and that must be enough to adapt to a change in format,” said Gans. “We just did not perform the way we were expected to, and we deserved those results.
“We were just not good enough, to be honest.
“Our standards dropped and that was disappointing for us as a group.
“But the exciting part of this week is that we have another chance at it, and we cannot let this opportunity slip.”
The BlitzBoks had a close encounter with Argentina the last time the sides crossed paths (winning 12-5 in Dubai in December), and Gans knows the opening match will be very competitive.
“Our focus at every tournament goes into that first game and what we need to do to establish our style of play over theirs,” he said. “The other teams are getting better every year, but we would also like to believe that we are improving as a squad.”
Meanwhile, Australia won their first medal of the season in Hamilton after defeating England 33-21 in the bronze final at FMG Stadium.
“Last weekend’s performance was really pleasing – it was our best result of the year so far and the things that we worked on, particularly our defence, really shone through,” said captain Nick Malouf.
“What’s exciting is that we came away with third place, but we know we’ve got lots more better performances in us if we tidy up those results against Fiji and New Zealand.”
Malouf is relishing the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd and at the Bankwest Stadium for the first time.
“This stadium is unbelievable, if you look around the supporters are right on top of you and that’s going to create an amazing atmosphere, and when we’ve got our friends and family in the crowd too, it’s going to be really good.”
(Kick-off time is local – GMT plus 11 hours)
Saturday, February 1:
USA v Scotland – 11.57
Australia v Japan – 12.19
Argentina v South Africa – 12.41
France v Samoa – 13.03
Canada v Ireland – 13.25
England v Spain – 13.47
Kenya v Fiji – 14.09
New Zealand v Wales – 14.31
USA v Japan – 17.24
Australia v Scotland – 17.46
Argentina v Samoa – 18.08
France v South Africa – 18.30
Canada v Spain – 19.05
England v Ireland – 19.35
Kenya v Wales – 20.05
New Zealand v Fiji – 20.33
Sunday, February 2:
Scotland v Japan – 11.07
Australia v USA – 11.29
South Africa v Samoa – 11.51
France v Argentina – 12.13
Ireland v Spain – 12.35
England v Canada – 12.57
Fiji v Wales – 13.19
New Zealand v Kenya – 13.41
Semifinals get underway at 16.20
Cup Final will kick off at 20.56