What emerged from the first fortnight of the 2016/2017 HSBC Rugby Sevens World Series is that the game of sevens, even at the elite level, is nothing if not unpredictable.
Just when the South Africans were on their way to convincing us they were the dominant force of the coming season – England take their much beloved home title out from under their collective noses.
Among the pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from the first look at what is on offer in the international Men’s Sevens landscape - Australia is definitely rebuilding; Uganda is a joy to watch; Fiji can be beaten on any given day; the teams from the ‘old country’ are to be taken very seriously – all three of them - and the festival atmosphere and big crowds are what makes a World Series tournament into an experience and not just a weekend of sport.
South Africa is ALMOST unbeatable
The Blitzbokke has looked dominant in all the twelve matches it played across the Dubai and Cape Town tournaments – even the loss to England in this weekend’s final was not a decisive loss. It was more about the determination of the England team than anything lacking in the South African performance.
Across the park, any one of the squad is capable of being the key to a victory. With the pace of Senatla, Afrika and Du Preez as well as the big men like Nel, Brown and Werner Kok, this team looks to be the standard to which all other teams must aspire.
GB teams to consistently threaten on Day Two
Whether it be a consequence of the combined training and work level that resulted from the unit that was Team GB in Rio or just that of the development and growth all UK Unions have put into their Sevens programs, there is no doubt that Wales and Scotland are the big improvers at this early stage of the World Series and join England as opponents not to be toyed with.
Australia IS rebuilding but the positives are there!
The Aussie Sevens Men’s squad is definitely embarking on a rebuilding phase that is borne of necessity. It will need time, patience, and support – not to mention ongoing resources – to nurture the obvious talent in the new broader line-up. But the one thing the first World Series fortnight has shown is that the foundation for a bright future is there and the leadership to mentor is there.
Fiji – Are we seeing chinks in the armour?
While Fiji remains hard to shake in Pool play, there are signs that, under new leadership in the coaching ranks and with a few new faces in the squad, this brilliant team from a small Pacific nation has occasional weaknesses in its structure. The key to its success is its unpredictability but that is also sometimes its Achilles heel – it will be interesting to watch in the season ahead how the aftermath of an incredibly successful 2016 will playout.
Is Cape Town is closing in on Hong Kong and Dubai as the ‘must do’ tournament?
Hong Kong is the jewel in the crown of the World Rugby Sevens family - as a venue (the stadium), a location (the city) and because of the fans that descend from all corners of the world to fill the main stadium on each day and the myriad of other rugby events in action.
But Cape Town has proven since taking on the World Series Round Two mantle in 2015 that it will quickly rival the Asian hub as the place to experience all that a top Rugby Sevens tournament can offer – a great atmosphere, exciting tourism, beautiful scenery, good weather and above all great rugby action.