The Aussie Sevens team will be looking to improve on last weekend’s fifth place finish when they take on formidable opposition on Day One in Cape Town.
Joining South Africa, the USA and Russia in Pool A, Australia will need to be focused and mistake-free as they contend not only with the Dubai champions but with two teams recovering from disappointing opening round performances.
Russia finished without a win last week while the USA lost two of its three opening games, eventually taking out the Challenge Trophy for ninth place. The Americans particularly will be looking for a major improvement in their form and can be dangerous when determined.
Australia played none of these three in Dubai so there will be no recent reference point, whereas the USA and Kenya played a very closely fought contest in the Trophy semi-final where there was just two points in it at the final siren.
While no teams should be underestimated at this early stage of the series, Fiji will be feeling relatively confident with their prospects in Pool B where they will battle France, Kenya and Japan for Day One honours.
These three teams all contested the pool round in Dubai with mixed results – Kenya being the most competitive even in their losses. So it will be interesting to see if performances and therefore results change this week.
Pool C would seem on paper to be the least predictable group where England, New Zealand, Argentina and Canada are set to vie for the top two positions with England having the edge based on its Dubai performance.
In the final group, the Celts (Wales and Scotland) should have the wood over Uganda and Samoa – given the strong performances from both these teams in Dubai – but Samoa can be unpredictable on any given day and there is no doubt new coach-in-the-wings Sir Gordon Tietjens, who cannot take over officially as coach until January, will have been unofficially offering advice this week.
The 2015 Cape Town tournament was an unusual one with the final four contenders on Day Two being an unexpected mix of the hometown heroes, France, Kenya and Argentina. Australia, despite being undefeated in the group round, finished equal seventh with New Zealand; Fiji finished fifth taking out the Plate Final and last week’s Cup semi-finalists – Wales and England – ended outside of the top eight.
It will therefore be interesting to see what surprises this year’s Cape Town Sevens throws up given the strong performances in Dubai from all the UK teams as well as the current heavyweights - South Africa and Fiji.
For Australia, coach Andy Friend will be looking for a repeat of last week’s solid first day results and hoping for improvement at the outset of Day Two as this new look team lays down the foundations for future success.
“This tournament is about taking our game up to the next level and proving our consistency across the two days,” said Friend.
Qantas Australia Men’s Sevens - Day One
Australia v USA, 9.27pm (AEDT), Saturday 10 December
Australia v Russia, 12.48am (AEDT), Sunday 11 December
Australia v South Africa, 4.56am (AEDT), Sunday 11 December
WHERE TO WATCH
Saturday 10 December
*7.05pm – 8pm Fox Sports Plus Ch507 (Red Button)
8pm – 5.30am Fox Sports Ch502
Sunday 11 December
7.30pm – 5.30am (Monday) All games will be broadcast on Fox Sports Ch502