Preview: PE Sevens
Fri, 07 Dec 2012 06:31
New Zealand can become the first team to win the same leg of the IRB Sevens World Series for a fourth consecutive time in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
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 will 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.
The Kiwi mentor 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 quarterfinals 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 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 Dubai 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 will 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.
Day One schedule - Saturday, December 8:
(Kick-off times are local - GMT plus two hours)
Match 1: New Zealand v Scotland, 11.00
Match 2: Fiji v England, 11.22
Match 3: Kenya v Argentina, 11.44
Match 4: Wales v Spain, 12.06
Match 5: Portugal v United States, 12.28
Match 6: Canada v Zimbabwe, 12.50
Match 7: Samoa v South Africa, 13.12
Match 8: France v Australia, 13.34
Match 9: New Zealand v England, 14.06
Match 10: Fiji v Scotland, 14.28
Match 11: Kenya v Spain, 14.50
Match 12: Wales v Argentina, 15.12
Match 13: Portugal v Zimbabwe, 15.34
Match 14: Canada v United States, 15.56
Match 15: Samoa v Australia, 16.18
Match 16: France v South Africa, 16.40
Match 17: Scotland v England, 17.14
Match 18: Argentina v Spain, 17.36
Match 19: United States v Zimbabwe, 17.58
Match 20: Portugal v Canada, 18.20
Match 21: New Zealand v Fiji, 18.52
Match 22: Kenya v Wales, 19.14
Match 23: South Africa v Australia, 19.36
Match 24: Samoa v France, 19.58
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