Only in the second leg of the 2018/19 HSBC Sevens Series, this weekend will see teams ‘react’ after the Dubai Sevens results. And at the Cape Town Sevens, that reaction will demonstrate teams strengths and weaknesses.
With 2020 Olympic Games qualifications in the back of every team’s minds, the competition will only get tougher from here on in – and better for fans of rugby sevens. It will be great for the game, as sides examine the upset that was witnessed in the Desert city of Dubai.
Consistency, discipline and failing to defend were the downfall of most sides last week. Regular series title holders Fiji and South Africa especially, each left the United Arab Emirates disappointed (to say the least).
New Zealand and beaten finalist the United States will be happy with their results but any International side (so early in their season) is always looking to improve.
If teams address their concerns from the opening pool games, then Cape Town Sevens fans can see more competitive matches. Exciting, but in reality, the execution of tactics and systems was clearly missing in the opening leg of the World Series.
Who reacts, and who improves quickest after dubai, will separate the best from the rest.
Blitzboks knocked out of Dubai Sevens https://t.co/CI5KA7enyc pic.twitter.com/oaxQozVpnq
— OFM Sport (@OfmSport) December 1, 2018
Cape Town Sevens; the place to rectify failures in Dubai
Fiji and South Africa didn’t get off to a good start last weekend and failed to reach the Cup semifinals. Poor by their standards, how well the two series favourites react is critical to their momentum heading into the New Year.
Blitzboks player Werner Kok was quoted as saying the side needed to improve defensively. “We have to get our system into place. We saw it coming together in the last two games of the [Dubai] tournament. The one-on-one tackles were a lot better. There are some positives that we can take out of those games.
“We have to go in lower with our tackles this weekend. Overall, the defensive line needs to be better and we have to work harder to get the ball back,” Kok said.
While still relatively early, it might be more easy to remedy now – than it might be, in leg six or seven….so no need to overreact.
Preview: Cape Town Sevens. https://t.co/ASthgpUnjL #CapeTown7s pic.twitter.com/q9N4HU3Vja
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) December 7, 2018
Defending champions New Zealand will be favorites but Fiji and South Africa will challenge aggressively. United States, Australia and England [if remaining focused and determined] can offer a great challenge for the Cape Town Sevens title in 2018.
All teams to play for important series points, and others will look to apply pressure to the top teams – if they are still not on top of their early season form, or fitness.
Injury will also play it’s part, with New Zealand hit hard. The All Blacks Sevens have brought in three fit men; Etene Nanai-Seturo, Trael Joass, and Taylor Haugh flew to Cape Town this week after the team picked up five injuries in the led up to and during the Dubai Sevens.
“Last weekend was quite testing with the injuries but we’ve had three good players join us who know how we want to play the game,” head coach Clark Laidlaw told AllBlacks.com.
Pools for Cape Town Sevens – the Lowdown
Capetown 7's Pool play #CapeTown7s pic.twitter.com/M976OrjfFq
— #RugbyFifteen.com (@RugbyFifteen) December 7, 2018
Pool A – New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa, Zimbabwe
This will be one of the Pools to watch, with the Kiwis and Blitzboks meeting in the final game of Day One.
Samoa who took the South Africans to the wire last week will be out to go one better. However, Zimbabwe, if underestimated, can spring the surprises. So each game will have something special to offer fans watching online, or via local subscription.
One huge motivation for the locals is a ‘special edition jersey’ that is to be worn in honour of Madiba. That is the term used for Sir Nelson Mandela, who would be 100 years old – and like the XVs team, will be a figure to aspire to. It could see the Blitzbok play ‘out of their skins’.
And there it is…the commemorative Madiba inspired jersey that will be worn by the Blitzboks at this weekend's #CapeTown7s #NextLevel7s @CapeTown7s pic.twitter.com/TirB1Msoln
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) December 4, 2018
Pool B – USA, Argentina, Spain, Japan
The United States men fell short with their same old problem, the inability to win games when it matters the most. Especially, against a team with only nine fit man. Consistency with being tested this week by these four sides, as much as all 12 competing nations.
Argentina had mixed results last week, losing to Samoa, then defeated Blitzboks before getting humiliated by the Aussies in the Cup Quarterfinals.
Spain and Japan will have to give more than what they did last week. It will come down to who has the stamina to sustain two weeks of hard rugby.
Pool C – England, Fiji, France, Kenya
Like Pool A, this is another Pool to watch. Kenya and France have the ability to ‘show up’ unexpectedly.
It can go either way in this Pool – the wounded Fijians will be out to get their season back on track. However, defense wins games, the English know that and the Fijians need to improve on it tremendously with their discipline.
Pool D – Australia, Scotland, Canada, Wales
Australia just felt short to the English in Dubai and will be going all out with their full squad. They have the talent but execution and bad luck always get them when they need it.
7s | Ahead of tomorrow's #CapeTown7s, Scotland's co-captain @farndalej reflects on the opening tournament in Dubai with refreshing honesty and discusses dealing with the highs of lows of sport in a must read article | https://t.co/bJxM2NhpkQ pic.twitter.com/nMtgGshgm2
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) December 7, 2018
Scotland will be unpredictable as always with Canada and Wales hoping to get their season back on track.
Fans should be prepared for Improvement this weekend
This weekend, the action moves to the picturesque Cape Town in South Africa. 15 core sides will again compete, with the Invitational side Zimbabwe for the 2018 HSBC Cape Town Sevens title [currently held by the Kiwis].
?? Hands up if you're excited for the @CapeTown7s this weekend! #CapeTown7s #DHLRugby pic.twitter.com/aOUsdSBRM4
— DHL Rugby (@DHLRugby) December 7, 2018
For Last Word on Rugby sevens specialist Jovilis Waqa, Samoa was the most improved side last weekend. The United States team only just fell short in the final – expect Mike Friday to have his team hissing.
John Porch, Marcos Moroni and US speedster Perry Baker were outstanding last week. Each helped their sides to perform well. Can they follow that up this week? Which player will standout on Day One in Cape Town?
Andrew Knewsstub was a leading figure in Dubai and is the stand-in captain [in the absence of Scott Curry. The mercurial Dan Norton was influential too, so can he take his team one step further in 2018? And the biggest question of all is, will the Blitzbok show their home fans that they are championship prospects, or….could they trip over the ‘expectation’ of the home side curse.
Follow the Cape Town Sevens on our Facebook page, and all the results at the conclusion of this weekends leg of the HSBC Sevens Series.
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