Greenwich, CT – The second stop of the HSBC Sevens Series will touch down in Cape Town on Saturday after a week long break from Dubai. South Africa and Fiji will be looking to maintain their dominance but nations like New Zealand will certainly be looking to turn the tables from last week.
Hosts South Africa are coming in hoping to impress their fans in person this time. There won’t be any changes from their roster in Dubai and I expect the Blitzboks to win the pool. The USA will be without Madison Hughes who is being given a rest after playing in every tournament last year and the recent 15s tour this fall. Coach Mike Friday will also be gone and in his place will be assistant coach Chris Brown. With Perry Baker leading the Eagles, the USA will be looking to improve off of last weeks performance. The young Australian side finished a respectable 5th in Dubai and now Jesse Parahi and Stephan van der Walt will be coming in as replacements that will add size and strength to the team. Despite setting expectations lower this year, Australia proven to still be a dangerous team. I see South Africa and Australia as the respective 1st and 2nd place finishers for Pool A.
Fiji heads up a strong Pool B in Cape Town. Rising star Setareki Bituniyata had quite a weekend in his first appearance and the boys from the island are looking just as strong for Cape Town. Fiji will be looking to revenge their championship loss to South Africa and I expect them to be playing in top form again on Saturday. France is coming off of a 7th place finish in Dubai and now its looking to make it farther in the cup playoffs this weekend according to captain Terry Bouhraua. Japan and Kenya had disappointing performances in Dubai but they are teams with the capability to compete with the top if they are able to get things going so don’t count them out. With everything considered I see Fiji coming 1st and France following up in 2nd.
Pool C looks like the “pool of death” this stop. England is looking strong after a 3rd place finish and New Zealand will be looking to avenge its poor 0-2 performance on day two in Dubai. Argentina had a poor weekend but they are a strong side and can easily bounce back and the same can be said for Canada. Everyone but England will be coming out with a chip on their shoulder and will aiming to put themselves back towards the top of the circuit standings. I see England taking 1st followed by New Zealand at the end of day one.
Wales is coming off of a strong showing in Dubai and I expect to see nothing different in Pool D. Scotland faltered in day two after reaching the cup playoffs but overall had a good showing. Samoa came in at 10th and it is always difficult to predict how well they’ll do because they have tended to be one of the more inconsistent teams but they have the capability to do well if things click. Uganda looked good at times on day one in Dubai where it led the USA at the half and gave Scotland a close match. However, in both it wasn’t able to play as strongly in the second half. I predict Wales will run away with Pool D and Scotland will take 2nd with a competitive Samoan side.
Thea Eagles hopefully have brushed off the cobwebs and will be able to perform in Cape Town the way they did in day two of Dubai. However, they will be without Hughes but fortunately Don Pati looked good in the playmaker role and will try to fill Madison’s spot. It has been the story of two different Eagles teams. It seems that you will never be able to know which side will show up. The Eagles can beat South Africa at times but they have also had trouble against teams like Scotland. It’ll be interesting to see which squad appears without its captain and head coach but look for Pati to play a significant role and Perry Baker to be a huge presence for the Eagles.
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