The 2019-20 World Series Sevens has had only two rounds of men’s fixtures, but already it’s looking like this is going to be a hotly contested season. That’s unsurprising considering there is an Olympic Games tournament to look forward to later in the year.
After two rounds, South Africa and New Zealand are level on points with each team having won a tournament apiece since the jamboree began in Dubai in December.
The World Series Sevens heads to Hamilton in New Zealand this weekend with the Blitzboks looking to hand the hosts a taste of their own medicine.
New Zealand have made three changes to the squad that came from behind to beat South Africa 7-5 in Cape Town.
Both Etene Nanai-Seturo and Vilimoni Koroi, who made their world series debuts in Wellington in 2017, will make their first appearances on the 2020 series this weekend alongside Sione Molia who last played in Dubai.
The All Blacks Sevens will play Scotland, Wales and the USA in Pool A.
South Africa, who won the 2020 season opener in Dubai, made seven changes to their squad. Injuries and players returning to Super Rugby duty means the side has had to rotate heavily.
Stedman Gans will captain the team while South Africa’s all-time leading point scorer Cecil Afrika is also back in the fold.
“For us as a team this season has been good so far, we showed some good rugby in Dubai and Cape Town and I think that’s a good foundation for us to build on,” said Gans.
“Our preparation started early in January, so we have prepared well leading up to Hamilton and we are very excited.”
South Africa will play in Pool B alongside Kenya, England and invitational side Japan.
Pool C features France, Ireland, Canada and Spain while Pool D sees Fiji, Argentina, Australia and Samoa go head-to-head.
It’s only the third year the tournament is being played in Hamilton, with Wellington previously hosting this leg of the event. New Zealand has not been a happy hunting ground for the Blitzboks, though.
They won this leg of the tournament in 2002 and in 2017, both times in Wellington.
In 2018, they finished runners’ up to Fiji, losing 24-17 in the first World Series Sevens final that was played in Hamilton.
When the Blitzboks find their rhythm, though, they put on a show – even if they don’t win the silverware.
The Blitzboks finished fourth in 2019, but struggled to find their pizzazz. The year before, though, they dazzled, topping both the points and try scoring charts, despite finishing second. On their last tournament win in New Zealand in 2017, they also out-scored everyone else on their way to the trophy. On that occasion, the Blitzboks racked up 184 points and 28 tries.