HSBC World Sevens Series 2018/19: Series Preview

South African Sevens team winning the HSBC World Sevens Series in 2018

The much-anticipated start to the 2018/19 World Sevens Series is just around the corner. Darry Worthington takes a look at what's in-store for punters and fans this coming season.


If this season's series holds half as many thrills and spills as its predecessor then we are in for an amazing nine odd months of rugby.

There's an added incentive this season with qualification for the 2020 Olympics on the line. While the big guns won't really be two concerned with this, the invitational sides, as well as core sides such as Spain, will be going all out to ensure they book a ticket to Tokyo 2020.

While the smaller unions will be looking to secure Olympic qualification, the big guns such as South Africa and Fiji will be looking to add another title World Series title to their respective trophy cabinets. The South Africans managed to steal last year's accolade from right under the Fijian's noses. No doubt, the Islanders will be going all out to stop the Blitzboks dominance.

Core Teams

  • South Africa
  • Fiji
  • New Zealand
  • England
  • Australia
  • United States
  • Argentina
  • France Samoa
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Canada
  • Kenya
  • Spain
  • Japan


Invitational Teams 

  • Ireland
  • Zimbabwe
  • Sri Lanka
  • Hong Kong
  • (*Will only feature at certain tournaments)


New Kids on the Block
This season sees Japan come on board as one of the core teams with Russia losing their status. It's another momentous achievement for rugby in 'the land of the rising sun', and a very timely one with the Asian nation set to host the 2020 Olympics.

The Japanese could prove a real handful for some of the big boys as they are a well-drilled and very fit side. They have produced some shocks in the recent past with few Sevens fans likely to have forgotten their victory over New Zealand at the Rio Olympics.

Series Schedule

  • Dubai
  • 30 November - 1 December 2018
  • Cape Town
  • 8 December - 9 December 2018
  • Hamilton
  • 26 January - 27 January 2019
  • Sydney
  • 2 February - 3 February 2019
  • Las Vegas
  • 1 March - 3 March 2019
  • Vancouver
  • 9 March - 10 March 2019
  • Hong Kong
  • 5 April - 7 April 2019
  • Singapore
  • 13 April - 14 April 2019
  • London
  • 25 May - 26 May 2019
  • Paris
  • 1 June - 2 June 2019

To Win Series Outright
Fiji 7/4
South Africa 2/1
New Zealand 15/4
England 12/1

USA 16/1
Australia 16/1


Contenders

South Africa
2018/19 Finish - Champions

The Blitzboks were far from the dominant force they were during the 2016/17 season last term but they still managed to hold on to their series title, albeit in dramatic fashion.

Paul Treu's men actually only managed to win two legs of last season's series with their tournament victories coming in the first leg in Dubai and the final leg in France. They were always there and there about last term, however, and racked up numerous runners-up medals.

The South Africans have lost veterans Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith to their Super Rugby franchises as well as the exciting Ruhan Nel who is likely to play a key role for the Stormers during the 2019 Super Rugby season.

Player to Watch: Zain Davids
The stocky Western Province junior enjoyed a breakthrough season last term going from proliferate figure to key cog as the series went on.

While he's competing with some highly talented veterans for the play-maker berth, I can see Davids' cementing himself in the starting seven by the close of the season.

Fiji
2017/18 Finish: Runners-UpThe Fijians will still be kicking themselves for handing the title to the Blitzboks last year. Gareth Barber's men headed into the final tournament of the series with a comfortable lead seven-point lead over second-placed South Africa. All the Islanders needed to do at this point was to make the final and they would have the title wrapped up. A quarter-final defeat to England would put pay to their chances, however, as South Africa won the Paris event and secured the title.

The Fijians will be extremely motivated after what transpired last term but will need to address their mental frailties if they are to claim the title.

Player to Watch: Jerry Tuwai
The Fijian play-maker is the heart and soul of this side, often dragging his teammates out of the mire with an awe-inspiring display of skill.

While his quick feet and vision are crucial to the Fijian cause, it's his maturity and leadership ability that make him the key man for the Islanders.

New Zealand
2018/19 Finish: Third

They may have finished 30 points adrift of the Blitzboks last season but New Zealand will be buoyed by their showing. The powerhouses of the XV's game hadn't been a real force on the Sevens circuit for a couple of years but they were back to their best last season as they secured a tournament win in Cape Town and a handful of runners-up finishes.

The New Zealander's threw quite a few of their youngsters in the deep end last season and this will only make them a stronger force in 2018/19 with the likes of Vilimoni Koroi and Andrew Knewstubb now having a number of tournaments under their belts.

Player to Watch: Joe Webber
The Waikato man was a key cog in his Province's recent Mitre 10 Cup Championship campaign which saw the Waikato side win the Championship and be promoted back to the top tier of New Zealand domestic rugby.

Blessed with insane acceleration, Webber is likely to prove a handful for opposing defences this season.

Dark Horse

USA
2017/18 Finish: 6th

It was a poor season for the United States last term with the Americans finishing way down in sixth They did manage to win their home tournament, however, but injuries to key players saw them put in some shoddy performances and finish a handful of tournaments outside of the major points positions.

This season should see an improvement from the Americans who have a quality squad to call upon. They have also added a few more exciting young players to their roster so they shouldn't be as susceptible to injury crises as they were last term.

Verdict: Fiji 7/4
They will be extremely motivated after what transpired last year and I can see this motivation spurring the Fijians on to a Series win. They are likely to face stern competition from the Blitzboks and a much-improved New Zealand outfit, however.


Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets


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