Greenwich, CT – South Africa came out on top in an upset of Fiji in the first stop of the HSBC Sevens Series in Dubai. There were plenty of other surprising results over the course of the two day so let’s break it down…
The Blitzboks went undefeated in pool play to win Pool B with victories over Scotland, the USA, and Uganda. South Africa looked in top form with the largest point differential on the day. Seabelo Senatla played fantastic with six tries over the first three games. In the quarter finals, they faced off against the All Blacks and easily put them away 40-0 before taking care of Wales 36-5. In the championship matchup against the only other undefeated team, Fiji, the Blitzboks raced out to a quick 14-0 lead thanks to two tries from Branco Du Preez before Fiji responded with a try from Osea Kolinisau just before the half. Fiji tied it up thanks to Joeli Lutumailagi, but South Africa dominated the rest of the match with two more tries from Chris Dry and Senatla to make the final score 26-14.
Dry took home the honor as player of the final and Werner Kok and Senatla made the Dubai Dream Team. Overall, South Africa made a statement in Dubai. This squad for the 2016-17 season is looking to knock off perennial 7s power and finally win the Seven’s Series after four straight years as number two. The star studded roster has the physicality, speed, and unselfish playing style that will make it tough for anyone to take them down. If anyone unseat Fiji this year it would be South Africa and I expect plenty of more matchups between these two to come.
The Eagles had a disappointing first day in Dubai after going 1-2 with close losses to Scotland and South Africa and a victory over Uganda. However, in the Challenge Trophy Round on day two, the USA played well and placed itself in the finals after defeating Russia 40-0 and holding off Kenya 21-19. The face-off against Samoa for the Challenge Trophy (9th place) saw the Eagles get off to a 21-7 lead at the half thanks to tries from Andrew Durutalo, Perry Baker, and Matai Leuta. When the clock hit 14, the score was 28-14 with Stephen Tomasin accounting for the final US try.
As expected when a team has little time for preparation, the Eagles were not able to click early on in day one against Scotland, a team they should beat. However, they did not play poorly at all against eventual champions South Africa, and if Madison Hughes had converted both conversion kicks, the USA would have won and been in the cup playoffs. Hopefully, the Eagles now have the cobwebs shaken off leading up to Cape Town.
Wales had an impressive showing this past weekend finishing fourth in Dubai. The squad finished second in pool A behind Fiji and in the Cup Playoffs it defeated Australia before falling to South Africa and England. Ethan Davies had himself a weekend and was named to the Dream Team for Dubai.
New Zealand faltered to England the first day but made it through to the Cup Playoffs as number two in Pool C. However, it finished day two a disappointing 0-2 with losses to South Africa and Australia. It seems like this All Blacks team still was not able to get over the challenges it had back in Rio this summer.
Fiji looked like typical Fiji until they faltered in the final. However, this is sevens and eventually you’ll lose a match once in a while. On the dream team, Fiji was well represented with Jerry Tuwai, Osea Kolinisau, and Setareki Bituniyata. Despite not coming home with the cup, this was still a good outing for the defending Seven Series champions.
England and Australia were the other two pool winners at the end of day one. England took home third and looked sharp behind Dan Norton and Ruaridh McConnochie. Australia finished fifth after going 2-1 on day two.
1st: South Africa