Sevens World Series: Cape Town Sevens Preview

The Blitzboks will be looking to make it two wins from the opening two tournaments when they welcome the Sevens field to the Cape Town Stadium this weekend.

The Springboks may be struggling on the world stage at the moment but their Sevens counterparts are having no such issues with Neil Powell's men getting their Series title defence off to an ideal start by bagging top honours in the season opener out in Dubai. The Blitzboks will now look to go one better than they did last season by winning the first two legs of the World Sevens Series.
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Cape Town Sevens | Saturday 9 December - Sunday 10 December | Cape Town Stadium

To Win Tournament Outright
South Africa 7/10 | Fiji 5/2 | New Zealand 6/1 | England 9/1 | Australia 14/1 | USA 33/1 | Samoa 33/1 | Argentina 100/1

The Contenders

South Africa
Pool Opponents: Kenya, France, and Russia

Wasn't it great to see a South African rugby team put in such a strong performance? The Blitzboks were absolutely magnificent in the' Duel in the Desert' as they swept away all comers to retain their Dubai title and get their Series title defence off to the best possible of starts.

Neil Powell's boys were a cut above the rest, with three of his charges - namely Kwagga Smith, Seabelo Senatla and Cecil Afrika - making the tournament's 'Dream Team' list.

They may well face a sterner test of their Series Champions-elect mantle out in Cape Town, however, as a few of the other big sides tend to need a week to get into the swing of things.

The Blitzboks also have a rather tough pool fixture against the Kenyans, which is a match-up that has produced its fair share of upsets in the past.

Powell will need to ensure his side are at the top of their game throughout the two days in Cape Town if they are to reclaim their home title from last year's winners England. The 'Blitzboks seemingly took the foot off the pedal in last year's final against the English and it cost them dearly.  As such, they 'll be desperate atone for that showing in front of what will be another partisan Cape Town Stadium crowd.

Player to Watch: Seabelo Senatla
The gas man had a few uncertain moments during the first few pool games in Dubai but bounced back to end the tournament as the Blitzboks top try-scorer. He has an insane strike rate in Cape Town and he'll want to produce in the Province he plays his XV rugby. Expect a big showing from the flyer.

England
Pool Opponents: Scotland, Argentina, and Uganda

The English only had one real blip out in Dubai and that came at the exact wrong moment as they were contesting a semi-final against New Zealand, which the Poms subsequently went on to lose.

The English looked the real deal prior to that defeat with Dan Norton and James Rodwell putting in some stellar showings during the pool phase and the quarter-final clash against a very solid Australian outfit. Sadly, neither man really showed up in the semi-final defeat and the English will need more from the duo when they reach the business end of the Cape Town tournament.

Like the South Africans, the English will do battle with one of their near neighbours having been drawn in the same pool as the 'Scots. The 'Men in Tartan' have a very solid side who are more than capable of giving the English a run for their money out in Cape Town. If the 'Poms can see off their neighbours, then they are more than likely to top this pool, despite Argentina and Uganda looking decent out in Dubai.

Player to Watch: Dan Norton
The flying winger returns to one of his favourite stomping grounds this weekend and you can bet your bottom dollar that he'll put on a show. He's currently involved in a three-way tie for the Series top-try scorer lead but I reckon he will have pulled away from the chasing pack come the close of Day 2 in Cape Town.

New Zealand
Pool Opponents: Australia, Spain, and the United States

We are only one tournament in but this crop of New Zealanders already looks a whole lot more impressive than last year's incarnation. The'Men in Black' managed to get their 2017/18 campaign off to a great start, claiming the Cup Runner-Up berth in the season opener. And while bagging the second most amount of Series points available will have pleased coach Scott Waldrom to no-end, the former Waikato Chief will have been even happier with the manner his less-experienced brigade came to the fore in Dubai.

Two men who are part of that more raw crowd are Joe Ravovou and Vilimoni Kiloi. The duo had brilliant outings in Dubai with the former running is some spectacular tries down the wings and the latter sparking play from the base of the breakdown and setpiece.

Player to Watch: Vilimini Koroi
This youngster will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest players to have donned a New Zealand Sevens jersey when his career comes to an end. The teenager was sensational at the season opener and got his side that ever so vital go-forward moment every time he handled the ball.

I think he may well be in the running for a slot in the Cape Town Sevens 'Dream Team' come the close of Sunday's play.

Fiji
Pool Opponents: Samoa, Canada, and Wales

The Fijians did exactly what I expected them to do in Dubai, producing some great stuff during the Pool phase and then collapsing when the pressure came on in Dubai. Their loss to the Blitzboks in last week's semi-final reeked of uncertainty with the Fijians struggling to find any way to break the South African defence down.

That wasn't the only time the Fijians showed a lack of creativity out in the desert, with their first-half display with-ball-in-hand against the Australians, having the creative ingenuity of an accountant with a Sudoku addiction.

South Africa has been a happy hunting ground for them in the past but those successful Fijian sides had a lot more quality than this one does.

Player to Watch: Jerry Tuwai
Tuwai will once again have to conjure up the majority of the magic if his side are to do anything in the Republic. He has the ability to make those around him look god-like but he will need his colleagues to box smarter in order for him to be able to put them in space.

Dark Horse

Australia
Pool Opponents: New Zealand, Spain, and the United States

The Australians are my 'Dark Horse' for this tournament due to their fantastic run to the Cup quarter-finals in Dubai. The Aussies put in some seriously impressive pool stage displays last weekend beating Wales 38-7, Russia 47-0 and going down to Fiji by just seven points. They also gave England a real run in the quarters and were only beaten by a last-second try.

They have a nice balance to the squad with old hands like James Stanard in great touch and youngsters such as Maurice Longbottom providing an extra dynamism from the bench. Don't be surprised to see this Australian side in the final this coming weekend.

Player to Watch: James Stanard
The long-serving playmaker was in great nick last weekend rolling back the years with some delightful runs. He was also on song with the boot and ended the tournament with the most successful conversions.

Verdict: South Africa 7/10
The Fijians have a decent record out in South Africa but my money is on them faltering at the semi-final stage once again. New Zealand could cause a few troubles but I just don't think this leg has their name on it. Australia are more than capable of making the final but I cannot see them beating the Blitzboks on home soil. I also think the Aussies will get done by the English again if the two sides meet in the knock-outs.

I think we'll see a repeat of last season's final with the English taking on the hosts. It won't be the same result as last season, however, as the South Africans are way too experienced to make the same rudimentary errors two years running. 

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net

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