Thu 4 Feb 2016 | 09:38

Preview: Sydney Sevens

Neil Powel on the Sydney Sevens by rugby365
Thu 4 Feb 2016 | 09:38

Preview: Sydney Sevens

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There have been three different champions in the three tournaments so far – Fiji in Dubai (Fiji), South Africa in Cape Town and New Zealand in Wellington (New Zealand).

South Africa have a two-point advantage over Fiji on top of the World Series log standings.

The Springbok Sevens have collected 54 points in the first three rounds, and are followed by Fiji (52), New Zealand (47) and England (41).

With only seven series events left before the teams head to the Olympic Games, a lot of talk, understandably, are on Rio.

Ed Jenkins, who returns to captain the Australia squad having become a father last week, said: "Going into the Olympics there are only seven tournaments left so you want to find some form soon.

"The squad last week did a great job, so if we can look to build on that and get some momentum heading into Rio that's all we can ask from the guys this weekend.

"The competition is great in our squad, last week the guys did a great job, and now the whole intensity for the sessions with the guys coming in means we are all fighting for spots and on the whole it makes it a lot stronger.

"We think having some of the bigger names coming in is great, it's building the profile of the sport so why not."

South Africa will be aiming to go one step further at the inaugural Sydney Sevens this weekend, after coming agonisingly close in Wellington last Sunday.

Last Sunday, the BlitzBoks came within a whisker of winning their second title of the season after their December triumph in front of a sell-out crowd in Cape Town.

A last gasp try by hosts New Zealand thwarted an excellent effort by the South Africans, who will again be amongst the favourites for this weekend's event in Sydney.

The BlitzBoks have suffered a dreadful run of injuries so far this season, which have ruled out several regulars such as Werner Kok, Frankie Horne, Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez and Ryno Benjamin. Justin Geduld became the latest injury casualty when he returned home on Monday following a shoulder injury in Wellington.

Apart from the spate of injuries, Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell is also rotating his squad with an eye on the Olympic Games later this year, and perhaps more importantly, to blood some newcomers on the World Series circuit.

Carel du Preez has only four caps under his belt, Dylan Sage has played in just two tournaments while Sandile Ngcobo was a debutant in Wellington. Tim Agaba is uncapped and set to make his debut in Sydney.

The South Africans are playing in Pool B against Scotland, Russia and Kenya and Powell expects a huge battle for the two qualifying spots.

With this in mind, Powell wants his team to fire on all cylinders when they meet Scotland.

"The Scots will punish you if you offer them any room to play," Powell said.

"They are good with ball in hand and have a strong defence, so a good start against them will be key for us," Powell added.

According to the Springbok Sevens coach, Sydney will be a big test for the depth of the squad.

"Our bench is very inexperienced and the challenge for the replacements will be to maintain the same level of momentum and intensity when they run onto the field," explained Powell.

Forward stalwart Chris Dry is now just two tournaments away from playing in his 50th World Series event for the BlitzBoks.

After scoring seven times in Wellington, speedster Seabelo Senatla is presently leading the try scorers list with 18 tries, three more than Fijian Savenaca Rawaca.   

Following a disappointing performance in the Wellington Sevens semifinal against South Africa, Fiji captain Osea Kolinisau is confident his side can turn it around this coming weekend in Sydney.

The 30-year-old, who made his debut for Fiji back in 2008, led his side to v victory in Dubai in the opening round of the series with the Pacific islanders showing moments of brilliance along the way. In Wellington, however, Fiji came unstuck against South Africa, a team they were playing for the first time this season, losing 31-0.

"We just got suckered into the way they wanted us to play and we didn't get the ball wide enough to Savenaca [Rawaca]," said Kolinisau.

"In the first half Savenaca and I didn't even get the ball once. We spent most of the game defending and credit to South Africa for their win as they had a good game plan, and executed it well.

"South Africa was a really big loss for us but we have to learn from these games and improve so we can avoid them happening again. It shows us there's something small we need to improve on."

Victories over Japan, Wales, France and United States in Wellington with an average winning margin of 23 points showed Fiji's potency in attack and the likes of Rawaca are on top form having scored 15 tries so far.

In Sydney, Fiji will face Argentina (who they beat 31-10 in Wellington), Samoa and France. The French knocked Fiji out of the Cup in Cape Town so Kolinisau is expecting a tough pool in Australia.

"We're always trying to build from tournament to tournament and we know we will have to play well to win our pool," he said.

"The weather in Australia suits our style of play. Hard ground, hot conditions, it's perfect for us and our offload game."

Pools:
Pool A: New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Portugal
Pool B: South Africa, Kenya, Scotland, Russia
Pool C: Fiji, Argentina, Samoa, France
Pool D: England, United States, Japan, Wales

Schedule – Saturday, February 6:
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus 11 hours)
Fiji v Samoa – 11.00
Argentina v France – 11.22
South Africa v Scotland – 11.44
Kenya v Russia – 12.06
England v Japan – 12.28
United States v Wales – 12.50
New Zealand v Canada – 13.12
Australia v Portugal – 13.34
Fiji v France – 14.18
Argentina v Samoa – 14.40
South Africa v Russia – 15.02
Kenya v Scotland – 15.24
England v Wales – 16.26
United States v Japan – 16.48
New Zealand v Portugal – 17.10
Australia v Canada – 17.32
Samoa v France – 17.59
Fiji v Argentina – 18.21
Scotland v Russia – 18.43
South Africa v Kenya – 19.05
Japan v Wales – 19.57
England v United States – 20.19
Canada v Portugal – 20.41
New Zealand v Australia – 21.03

Sources: @WorldRugby7s & @rugby365com

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