The Blitzboks will be looking to bounce back from a desperately disappointing season opener in Hong Kong when the Sevens visits Dubai this weekend.
Friday 2 December – Saturday 3 December
The Sevens Stadium
Australia, South Africa, Great Britain, and Kenya
Fiji, Argentina, New Zealand, and Uruguay
France, Ireland, Spain, and Uganda
Samoa, USA, Canada, and Japan
The Australians have picked up where they left off last season, with the reigning World Series Champions winning the opening tournament in Hong Kong.
They were impressive out in South East Asia. While they did lose a pool stage game to Samoa, they managed to bounce right back by beating New Zealand to advance to the Cup phase. They then were workmen-like in the knockout rounds beating Ireland 19-26 in the quarter-finals, France 10-7 in the semi-finals and Fiji 17-20 in the final.
The Aussies showed a really mature approach to their fixtures in Hong Kong. Much of this is down to the vast experience the squad shares. I fancy their chances out in Dubai, especially with Matt Gonzalez returning from injury.
South Africa 4/1
The Blitzboks put in an extremely underwhelming showing in Hong Kong finishing the tournament in eighth place. They won only one pool phase game beating South American minnows Uruguay 21-0 and then going down 12-10 to Great Britain and 17-19 to France.
They then bombed out of the Cup with a 12-7 defeat to Fiji. Things only got worse from there as they went down 19-12 to Argentina in the 5th/6th place play-off.
They will be hoping that their poor showing in the opener was just a blip rather than a sign of things to come. In fairness, this South African side is in the midst of a rebuilding phase and we may take them some time to gel.
The Fijians got their 2022/23 season off to a decent enough start as they finished as runners-up in Hong Kong. They were really good during the pool phase of the tournament opening up with a 59-12 win over Japan and following that up with a 35-21 win over Spain and a 24-0 win over the United States.
They then managed to hold off a spirited South African side in the Cup quarter-finals running out 12-7 victors. They would then beat Pacific rivals Samoa 7-19 in the semis. A tournament win n Hong Kong was not to be, however, as they went down 17-20 to Australia in a hotly contested final.
The Islanders have taken a somewhat inexperienced squad to Dubai with only Josua Vakurinabili and Waisea Nacuqu having significant circuit experience.
The South Americans really shouldn’t fall under the dark horse category anymore as they have a vastly experienced side who have a number of tournament wins under their belts.
They had a good start to the 2022/23 series finishing in fifth place out in Hong Kong while beating South Africa, the USA and Canada. A shock loss to Ireland would curtail their chances of real silverware, however.
Verdict: Argentina 8/1
I rather fancy the Argentines here. I reckon the Australians will be very strong but they’ve never really done well in Dubai. South Africa and Fiji are both understrength and they could well struggle.