CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – Our HSBC 7s World Series coverage continues, as we touch down in The Republic. This is the 2nd leg in the 10-nation tournament. As we did last week, we will analyze the @Eagle7s side for this tournament and try our luck at predicting the tournament standings – including the winner.
Resiliency has been the hallmark of the USA 7s program – going all the way back to the day of Al Caravelli as head coach. They managed to deal with the sudden resignation of Alex Magelby as head coach, the one year baptism-by-fire of Matt Hawkins at the helm, before finally turning the keys over to Mike Friday.Yet, the performance in Dubai was the worst one ever under Friday and his staff. They also have their lowest standing after one round (well, any round) in the history of the 7s. Fans and observers fully believe that this was a fluke and the USA will get it back together. The Eagles are in the running for a top-four finish and some real World Cup success. The pressure is mounting as their recent success demands a bounce-back performance, full of verve and tenacity like they have demonstrated in the past.
The good news for the fans is the coach and players are likely telling each other the same thing. With that, let’s look at the 3 key issues going into this tournament:
Team changes (+/-): There are .5 changes to the USA squad from Dubai. These days almost all 7s squads travel with 13 guys since the rule change that allows a member of the match-day 12 to be taken off if they suffer an injury that they will not return from the rest of tournament or 1 day of the tournament. So the will be no new person added to the squad. However, with Perry Baker on concussion protocol, his participation is questionable. If he is diagnosed as fit and can play on Day 1 or even Day 2, that will be a huge boost to the USA team. What team wouldn’t welcome the World Player of the Year back.
Best 3 minutes: In 15s, the old coach’s saying is: play the best 5 minutes you can play at kickoff, then do it again, and again. Sevens is much shorter, so the Eagles need to focus on the best 3 minutes they can play right at kickoff. They need to then look to do it 3 more times.
Win that first game: When building yourself back, the most important thing is to play well in that first game. What will be more helpful is to break the schneid and get a win. The win will help boost confidence in the squad again.
Optimist’s View: They prove last weekend was a fluke go 2-1 on day won and then lose a cup quarterfinal, win a 5th place playoff and lose in the 5th place final.
Cynic’s View: They miss the Cup playoffs and end up making the Challenge Trophy final before losing.
My view: I feel the side will bounce back but still miss the cup playoffs, yet win the Challenge Trophy.
CAPE TOWN 7s:
So, it was an interesting round one. Fiji looked to be in peerless form and the All Black 7s side had to fly in 5 replacements. England made a huge statement that they belong in the top four and the USA managed to crack the top 4 and have a player named to the team of the tournament in Dubai. This means that this tournament is completely up for grabs.
Here are our pool previews:
South Africa will win this group going away. It will be a battle for second between Kenya and France for second place but we feel that the Kenya, who will be as close to home as they may get will steal the two spot. Russia will be the pool whipping boy.
New Zealand will take this group with the momentum gained from the last round. Speaking of team with momentum, Australia gave a good account of themselves so they hope to take that in Cape Town and claim second place in the pool. The United States will play better and fall short of cup playoffs and finish third. Spain will be a thorny side to play and likely won’t go down without a fight but they seem a lock for the last in the pool.
England are the heavy favorites to win this group. However they will be pushed hard by Scotland and Argentina. There won’t be much in it but we think England will win the group, with Scotland second and Argentina will finish third. Uganda will unfortunately be cannon fodder in this group.
Fiji is the class of this group, by far so they will in all likelihood win the group. Samoa had a strong campaign in Dubai and though they are now coached by the legendary Kiwi, Sir Gordon Tietchjens, they have a history of inconsistency. It is that history that leads me to think they will under-perform and come in third, allowing Canada to steal 2nd. Last place in the group will go to a rebuilding Wales side.
Final standings will be:
Cup: South Africa
Third: New Zealand
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: @RugbyWrapUp, @Junoir Blaber, @MeetTheMatts, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.
And remember to stay low and keep pumping those legs!