The Wellington Sevens tournament has been hitting the headlines for many ‘off-field matters’ but the real showdown will be on the field. Fiji and South Africa are in what might be called the ‘Pool of Death’. Matched together in Pool B, it should be enough to give that rugby-thrill to quench fans’ sevens thirst. This is because in Pool B, not only Fiji and the Blitzboks entertain you, watch out for the Aussies and Japanese teams.
Yes, the Wellington Sevens may have lost it’s mojo, but what a way to resurrect it than the best way we know how. The Game!! The real entertainment is always on the field and between them, these four teams will not disappoint.
A Sea of Stars in South Africa, Fiji and Australia
One huge incentive to watch the Wellington Sevens, is that this could be the last time in a while that many can watch Seabelo Senatla on the sevens rugby field. He is taking his game away to the Stormers Super Rugby team, after the Sydney Sevens, so only two more times to see the World Rugby Sevens Rugby Player of the Year.
Staring them down in pool play will be two-time champions Fiji. As much as can be said of their attack, they still need to defend. Natural talent aside, structures are the key to progressing through the stages–and in the Pool of Death, your could succumb to the relentless pressure.
As well, rotation of players is critical: Australia have made five changes to their side including two debutantes. Fiji has two new caps while recalling three playmakers. South Africa on the other hand has given a Junior Springbok a major break. On the other hand, Japan has lost its senior players but surely they can ‘never be underestimated’.
Fiji and South Africa in Sevens Pool of Death
The Olympic Gold Medalists are in the proverbial Sevens Pool of Death this weekend. They will be tested from the get-go in Pool play. Fiji will be up against Australia first up while the Blitzboks take on the Aussies.
The Fijians are going into the tournament for the first time with Gareth Baber at the helm. The Welshmen has rewarded five players from the Fiji Barbarians squad that went to Sudamerica Sevens. South Africa on the other hand have brought in Zain Davids for his first tournament. The Junior Springbok had an outstanding season last year, this is his just reward.
Australia have senior players in Ed Jenkins and Jesse Parahi unavailable due to injury. It could limit them, however, they’ve given Tate McDermott and Dylan Pietsch a chance to prove their worth. They performed well in Darwin last weekend at ‘The Hottest Sevens’ tournament, to earn the call up.
All Sides Need to Watch for Complacency
New Japan coach Damian Karauna is missing some senior players in his squad. That has given him a chance/opportunity to breed new and exciting talents, with a longterm dream of hosting the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. If the group of local and naturalized players can gel early, it will be ‘all on’.
Even with all the changes to all sides, don’t expect the competition to be dull as they have good mentors leading them. These four teams will go ‘all out’ to test out each other and at the end of Day One, only the best will progress further.
Pool B: The LOWDOWN
Flanker Zain Davids’ call-up is in line with Blitzboks policy of building for the future. A smart plan; with Senatla moving to the Stormers, they have brought in a new man – Shakes. Watch this name, Siwive ‘shakes’ Soyizwapi, because he will be taking the reigns from Senatla at some stage.
With Kyle Brown out injured, Chris Dry (main picture) will lead the forwards, together with Kwagga Smith and Ruhan Nel. Philip Snyman retains the captaincy armband and will be vital this weekend, along with fellow utility and former ‘Player of the Year’ Werner Kok.
Their backline will be missing the alertness and quick distribution of Cecil Afrika, but they still have Branco Du Preez and Rosko Specman. Another to watch is Justin Geduld, who can run off the wings if the need arises,as they will play expansively like usual, if they feel the game suits.
Blitzboks squad: Chrisa Dry, Philip Snyman, Dylan Sage, Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok, Zain Davids, Branco Du Preez, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Ruhan Nel, Seabelo Senatla, Sandile Ngcobo.
‘Fiji Barbarians’ captain Amenoni Nasilasila makes a return to the Sevens Series side, beside fellow playmaker Alivereti Veitokani. The duo are replacing Kitione Taliga and Wise Nacuqu. Olympic Gold medalist and ace-goalkicker Vatemo Ravouvou, is also back in the team which can only bring rewards.
— Tadeo Rosselot (@rosselot_69) January 15, 2017
Mesulame Kunavula and Nacanieli Labalaba will make their series debut. Both players featured prominently for the Babas team who played in the Sudamerica Sevens. They bring youth and speed to the side. The Fijians will be looking to tighten their defense too at the Cake Tin, while of course mesmerizing the crowd with their free-flow brand of rugby.
The whole of Fiji is looking forward to this tournament. Only one question will be weighting on their minds “is he the worthy replacement for their beloved Peni Raioni [Ben Ryan]?”
Fijian squad: Jasa Veremalua, Sevuloni Mocenacagi, Setareki Bituniyata, Nemani Naqusa, Kalioni Nasoko, Mesulame Kunavula, Jerry Tuwai, Vatemo Ravouvou, Osea Kolinisau, Alivereti Veitokani, Amenoni Nasilasila, Samisoni Viriviri, Nacanieli Labalaba, Joeli Lutumailagi.
It was around the same this time last year, that a new sevens superstar came to fame in the ‘Land Down Under’. This year another 18 year old hits the headline in Dylan Pietsch.
— Aussie 7s (@Aussie7s) January 23, 2017
James Stannard will again lead this young brigade together, with Tom Kingsaton and Boyd Killingworth. Their biggest trump card is Sam ‘Simba’ Meyers who–if not contained–will be their key provider. Henry Hutchison is a threat, so the side who ignores any one of the men in gold, will be to their detriment.
Coach Andy Friend Comments on his ‘New Boys’
“Dylan’s quite a big bloke for an 18-year old, he’s got a good step on him and a good carry of the football. Momentum is his friend, he is a powerful boy. “Tate is more of a half, he sees the game of football and has very good feet on him to put people through holes and he can get through holes himself as well”
Aussie 7’s squad: Henry Hutchison, Tom Kingston, Sam Meyers, Alex Gibbon, James Stannard, Tate McDermott, Boyd Killingworth, Dylan Pietsch, Tim Anstee, Michael Adams, Charlie Taylor, Conor Mitchell, Simon Kennewell.
Damian Karauna didn’t have a good start in Dubai or Cape Town. With literally a new squad to work with, they are all trying to adapt to each other and come together as a unit. However, Jamie Henry has been around for a while and his leadership will be vital. Be wary South Africa–rest for a minute at your peril!
Japanese squad: Jamie Henry, Dallas Tatana, Yoshiaki Tsurugasaki, Jonmoon Han, Leon Ellison, Dai Ozawa, Patrick Stehlin, Sione Pouli Teaupa, Ryota Kano, Rikiya Oishi, Masahiro Nakano, Hisayoshi Matsuoka.
Who Will Reign in the Sevens Pool of Death?
Fiji and South Africa will make it through.That is how the script will normally go….however, who will top the Pool will only be seen when ‘the dust settles’ on Day One. Australia will put on a brave fight, and so will the Japanese men. They will target matches; if not the opening games, then the mid-afternoon games. Those will be the crunch moments of the Wellington Sevens Pool of Death.
Watch Senatla and Nasilasila in action this weekend, they are on the prime of their lives. The fire power on show when these two clash at 7.18pm Saturday night will be a fitting finale to Day One. It will be the litmus test for each side–no matter the results earlier in the day. It might be the crunch match of the Oceania leg of the World series.
And fans will be all the richer, for these two teams being drawn together at the Wellington Sevens.
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