CAPE TOWN – Ahead of the opening leg of the 2018/19 World Sevens Series in Dubai, Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said this leg was always the toughest because you have no idea what the other teams will bring.
So, after all teams now have that assessment in the UAE behind them, will we see drastically different results in Cape Town this weekend?
After a few interesting occurrences in Dubai, here are my three picks for the final, as well as my tip as the Player of the Final.
They did it in Cape Town last year, and although captain Andrew Knewstubb earlier this week insisted they’re not going out to defend their Cape Town title, the simple yet effective way in which the Commonwealth Games gold medallists and World Cup champions have been going about their business makes it hard not to be tempted to put money on them.
The fact that they outplayed first-time tournament finalists, the USA in the Cup final to win their first Dubai title since 2009 should surely do much for their morale.
They headed into the final with only nine fit players, by the way, with Kurt Baker, Jona Nareki and Akuila Rokolisoa all sustaining injuries before heading into the tournament, while captain Scott Curry, Sam Dickson and Regan Ware all picked up injuries on day one.
Yeah, they had to be satisfied with last spot in the top five after beating the Blitzboks in the fifth-place final in Dubai, but the islanders cannot ever be discarded when it comes to the game of sevens.
They scored the most tries in the opening tournament (28), the most points (174) and won the most restarts (31), but will they be able to convert those numbers into results this weekend?
Their almost telepathic offloads, powerful running and unpredictable angles have seen the Flying Fijians being just too tough to handle for some teams in the past.
The Blitzboks are back-to-back series winners for a reason, although they didn’t always produce performances that could flaunt that title in Dubai.
In the build-up to the Cape Town Sevens, new Blitzbok Impi Visser said their focus is more on their process and building as opposed to results, seeing that they’ve lost the likes of Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Kwagga Smith, Tim Agaba and Dylan Sage to 15-man rugby.
Despite such a major loss, the South Africans still managed to come together and beat Scotland 29-0 after a disappointing showing against England in the Cup quarter-final.
They also played their part in an epic battle against Fiji for fifth place, and when they landed in Cape Town following the opening leg, Powell said the guys were probably “more relaxed”, which will allow them to just play their game.
Player of the Final picks
Andrew Knewstubb (New Zealand): Player of the Final in Dubai, the stand-in Kiwi skipper was second on the most points scored list and also topped the most conversions scored list with 16. The pressure of their bizarre injury situation and taking over the captaincy clearly didn’t bother him too much.
Jerry Tuwai (Fiji): The Little Master’s insane stepping ability can torment defences.
Rosko Specman (South Africa): Didn’t take long to add some magic when he came off the bench on day one in Dubai (does he ever?).
1 Impi Visser 2 Philip Snyman (captain) 3 Ryan Oosthuizen 6 Zain Davids 5 Werner Kok 6 Kyle Brown 7 Branco du Preez 8 Rosko Specman 9 Justin Geduld 10 Dewald Human 11 Siviwe Soyizwapi 12 Muller du Plessis 13 Selvyn Davids (reserve).
Blitzboks Today: Samoa 12.27pm; Zimbabwe 3.48pm; New Zealand 7.56pm.@WynonaLouw