It was a big weekend in Vancouver for the HSBC World Series Canada Sevens tournament.
So, what did we learn from the rugby in Vancouver?
1. Is there a coup in the offing?
The Blitzboks are beatable – but apparently only by a resurgent England.
South Africa has made every final in every round of the World Series to date and has done so with apparent ease.
This weekend in Vancouver however, seems to have revealed some cracks in the armour.They were pushed by the USA in the semi-final before being beaten in the final by the English.
The Brits hit a speed bump in Wellington and even Las Vegas to a certain extent, but were back in fine form in claiming a second series title won a second series title and second place in the Series standings above Fiji.
The question then begs, can the men of the Red Rose reel in the 23 point lead held by South Africa with just four rounds to play? Unlikely.
But it will be interesting to see how close they get and how the jockeying for the places below the top spot plays out.
2. Aussie potential on show
The Aussies got fans excited with a big Sydney Sevens but were dealt a reality check in Vegas and Vancouver.
While a sixth and a seventh placing over the past fortnight revealed elements to be revisited on the training track, it also revealed gems of talent in the form of the rookies Andy Friend has recruited.With the addition of returning experience, the team dynamic needs to adjust and recalibrate.
A top eight finish is the box to be ticked according to the coach’s key objective and that has been done in four of the six rounds.
The potential for top four finishes is certainly starting to emerge but it should be written on the coach’s whiteboard as a work in progress and patience needs to be exercised by those watching from the stands.
3. Era of the Next Gen
One key element to emerge out of Vancouver has been the new young players being tested by many of the teams and the subsequent talent on show.
Liam McNamara played a starring role in Australia’s defeat of Japan on Day One, showing his ability to find the try line.
This comes off the back of Tim Anstee performing well in Sydney and an outstanding three days in Las Vegas for Lachie Anderson - where he was ultimately named the tournament’s top try scorer.
Post-Olympics, these young men are among the next generation being blooded by Friend.
The experts are also talking about players such as 19 year old Matias Osadczuk (ARG), 20 year old Alexandre Lagarde (FRA) and 18 year old Vilimoni Koroi (NZL).
All starred for their teams over the weekend, crossing the try line multiple times.
4. Canada 7s
In just its second year, the Canada Sevens tournament hosted in Vancouver has been a big success for organisers.
In excess of 75,000 people attended BC Stadium over the two day tournament and the event is now being compared to Hong Kong, Sydney and Dubai for crowd support and organisational effectiveness.
5. Chile proved its core value
By the end of the Canada Sevens weekend, 16th team Chile had impressed both opposition teams and fans alike with some coaches saying it was the best 16th team they had come up against this season.
The invitational teams which make up the full list at each tournament are regional teams that have earned the right to run around with ‘the big boys’ for two rounds on the World Series – providing invaluable top level experience.
Despite finishing Day One without a win – not uncommon for the 16th team – Chile pushed Kenya, leading 19-0 at half time before going down by seven points.
They bounced back to defeat Russia, two tries to nil, in the Trophy quarter final on Day Two, before going down to Wales, the eventual Trophy winner, in the semi by nine points having lead at half time.
The Vancouver competition has been invaluable experience for Chile, who will now head to Hong Kong to compete in the Men’s Qualifying tournament for the right to be a permanent member of the core list for the 2017/2018 Series.