Johannesburg – New Zealand can become the first team to win the same leg of the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series for a fourth consecutive time when the South African round takes place in Port Elizabeth.
No other team has achieved this feat since the tournament started in 1999.
England won the Hong Kong leg from 2002 to 2004 and New Zealand retained the title at home from 2003 to 2005, but in South Africa they'll gun for their fourth.
The Kiwis will also want to recover from their 26-15 defeat agains Samoa in last week's Dubai final.
“You've got 16 pretty tough teams now; there's no easy games,” said coach Gordon Tietjens ahead of Saturday's start.
He was less than pleased with the draw that put them in a pool featuring first leg winners Fiji – who triumphed in Australia – England and Scotland, which he called “ridiculous”.
Each side plays its three opponents once with pool winners and runners-up advancing to the Cup quarter-finals Saturday when there will also be Plate, Bowl and Shield silverware up for grabs.
New Zealand lead the series without any title, having bowed to Samoa in Dubai and Fiji in October. The two victors are so far placed joint-second with Kenya in the standings with 32 points.
Hosts South Africa want to save face after crashing out against Portugal last weekend.
Last year's runners-up at the 45,000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium have included former IRS Sevens Player of the Year Cecil Afrika in their squad after a knee injury kept him from traveling to Dubai.
Ironically their hopes rested on Afrika last year as well after a rib injury prevented him from traveling to Emirates then.
“We know the fans expect us to do well and we will do our best not to disappoint them. It's nice to have Cecil back because he is such an important player for us,” said coach Paul Treu.
Blitzbokke captain Kyle Brown is out of action with a broken ankle and will be replaced by Frankie Horne, who'll play his 44th World Series tournament.
His team are in Pool A with Samoa, France, and Australia.
Kenya, Wales, Argentina and Spain square off in Pool C.
Pool D will see Portugal, Canada, the United States and Zimbabwe compete for finalist positions. – Sapa-AFP