HSBC World Sevens Series: Hamilton Preview

New Zealand will be the next nation to welcome the Sevens circuit with the 2018 Hamilton Sevens getting underway on Saturday the 3rd of February

The next stop on the HSBC World Sevens series circuit is a rather unfamiliar one with Hamilton set to play host this weekend. Wellington has held the monopoly on the hosting rights to the New Zealand leg of the circuit for the last few years now but the hometown of the Hurricanes has passed the baton on to Hamilton, Otago due to poor attendance figures and financial losses.

With the All Blacks Sevens side playing some solid rugby, the Wellington edition is far more likely to draw bigger crowds, which means we are set to witness the most festive Sevens tournament in New Zealand for quite some while.

Hamilton  Sevens | Saturday 3 February - Sunday 4 February | FMG Stadium

To Win Tournament Outright
South Africa 1/1 
Fiji 4/1
England 10/1
New Zealand 24/10
United States 30/1
Australia 50/1
Samoa 110/1
Scotland 175/1

The Challengers

South Africa
Pool Opponents: England, Russia, and Papua New Guinea

The Blitzbokkes will once again be licking their wounds after they went down 29-0 to Australia in last week's final. This was extremely unexpected with Neil Powell's men dominating all in sundry until they met the hosts. There is a silver-lining for the South Africans, however, as their second-place finish in Sydney saw them leapfrog New Zealand to the summit of the HSBC Sevens World Series standings.

New Zealand has proved a rather tough nut to crack for South Africa despite the Blitzboks coming into this one as reigning champions. The current World Series leaders only won two editions of the Wellington Sevens, with their only other taste of glory out in Wellington coming in 2002.

The South Africans will come into this one without a few key players as well, with Ruhan Nel and Phillip Snyman both ruled out due to injury.

Player to Watch: Werner Kok
The South Africans have lost a lot of physicality with Snyman and Nel ruled out. Hence, Werner Kok, who has been something of a super-sub of late, will need to step up to the mark. The long-haired flyer has the ability to do just this, and I'm expecting a big tournament from him.

Pool Opponents: Australia, Spain, and Wales

We're three tournaments into the season and the Fijians are yet to find any rhythm. The men from the Pacific Islands endured yet another sub-par tournament last time out, as they could only muster up a sixth-place finish out in Sydney.

The good news for Fijian fans is that their side does have a healthy record out in New Zealand. The men in black and white have won three tournaments in 'the land of the long white cloud' since the turn of the millennium and have appeared in eight of the last 17 finals.

Player to Watch: Amenoni Nasilasila
The 25-year-old has enjoyed a magnificent start to the Series and currently tops the points scoring charts with 112 points to his name. He's kicked the most conversions of any player on the circuit this year, and his accurate goal-kicking could make all the difference for the Fijians this weekend.

Pool Opponents: South Africa, Papua New Guinea, and Russia
The English are yet to hit their straps this year but you simply cannot discount a side that contains the electric Dan Norton. The men from the northern hemisphere have once again been handed a stiff draw with South Africa joining them in their pool for the second week running. The Blitzboks tore the English apart out in Sydney and the men in red and white will surely be eyeing a spot of revenge this coming weekend.

The English have been a force to reckon with at times out in New Zealand, winning the 2009 and 2013 events. They also finished as Cup runners-up in 2011 and 2014.

Player to Watch: Dan Norton
The flyer has already bagged 13 tries this term and he will be looking to add a handful more to that tally out in Hamilton. If he fires, then England will fancy their chances of at least making the semi-finals this weekend.

New Zealand
Pool Opponents: Argentina, Scotland, and France
The New Zealanders will be licking their lips at the prospect of playing in front of what should be a vociferous Hamilton crowd. The All Blacks Sevens side may have only finished fifth in Sydney but they put in some emphatic displays during the tournament as they put 60 points over Russia and hammered Fiji 31-7 in the 5th/6th place final.

The Kiwis have a healthy record on home soil and have won five of the last seven tournaments they have hosted. You can certainly expect a big showing from them this coming weekend.

Player to Watch: Joe Ravouvou
He was my man to watch last week and he will take that accolade once again. Ravouvou is a brilliant finisher but he also has a deft set of hands. The All Black Sevens will look to get the ball to him as early as possible in a bid to get him into space. Don't be surprised if he tops the try-scoring charts out in Hamilton.

The Dark Horse

United States
Pool Opponents: Wales Canada, and Samoa

The Aussies were my 'dark horse' last weekend and they delivered. I'm actually rather aggrieved that I didn't have a solid strike on them or advised you to do the same. I'm going with the States this weekend mainly due to the form of one man, Perry Baker, who has the ability to turn a game on its head with his searing pace.

The States enjoyed a solid Sydney tournament which saw them finish in fourth-place. This was a huge improvement on their previous two showings on this year's circuit. I'm expecting the States to take their game up another notch this coming weekend.

Player to Watch: Perry Baker
Baker was untouchable at times last weekend, leaving a whole host of players for dead in numerous games. He may not top this season's try scorers list at present, but he is certainly the Series' form player.

Verdict: New Zealand 24/10
The All Black Sevens have been mightily impressive this year and my money is on them claiming their second cup victory on the circuit in front of their home faithful. They have a well-balanced squad who seem on track to have a real tilt at this year's overall title.
I will also be having a small go on the States, mainly because of the Australians winning last week's edition. 

Written by Darry Worthington for

Bet now on the latest rugby event

Register now and start betting on Durban July Horse Racing