Pic: World Rugby
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With the HSBC 7's world series set to kick-off once again in Las Vegas over the weekend, the question on everyone's mind is can South Africa's Blitzbokkes be stopped?
Sevens is a simple game –seven minutes a half and seven players a side on one full-size rugby pitch. The game is praised and loved for its unpredictability and uncompromising high paced action. Anything can happen at any time.
However, as 7s fans around the globe are looking forward to another back-to-back weekend of action in Las Vegas and a week later in Vancouver, the World Sevens Series leaders South Africa seem have certainly dominated this season thus far with three titles from four rounds.
Long Road Ahead
While South Africa’s 15-a-side team currently faces a bit of a crisis, the 7s squad is on track to win their second title after 2009. A series win would follow a frustrating run of finishing as runners up on multiple occasions. It has been a tough record for Neil Powell's men as they look to claim a long overdue title.
However, there are still a lot of matches to be played this season so the question is who can stop South Africa during the remaining six rounds. Their lead in the overall standings shows that it is going to be a massive task for any team to get in their way. South Africa leads the table with 85 points and has a comfortable 17 points lead ahead of second placed team England. Olympic Champions Fiji and New Zealand are currently sitting in third and fourth position respectively.
But with Fiji and New Zealand, both going through a bit of a restructure since the two Southern Hemisphere heavyweights appointed new coaches, it might take a while until they get back on the winning track.
Age Old Rivalry
England however have showed that they are capable of winning tournaments and even more important that they can beat the Blitzboks. Simon Amour’s side caused a massive upset earlier in the season when they beat the hosts in the final of the Cape Town Sevens.
England has developed into a top-class team following some disappointing seasons in recent years. The current squad is made up of up and coming young talents and very experience players. With Dan Norton aiming to become the All-Time try scorer and playmaker Tom Mitchell leading from the front, the team will remain a serious contender for at least a few more tournament wins, if not the big prize. Additionally, Team GB’s Olympic silver-medal win gave England a further confidence boost – and let’s not forget who they beat on their way to the final (yep, it was South Africa in the semi-final).
Pic: World Rugby
At the same time South Africa will play for the first time without their Superstar Seabelo Senatla in Las Vegas and it will be exciting to find out how they cope without him. The twenty-four-year old joined Super Rugby franchise the Stormers for the start of their new Super Rugby season.
Certainly this side has quality in all areas and it’s not just South Africa’s starting 7 which have looked so convincing thus far but also the bench which is unbelievably strong. The team has already scored a whopping 107 tries during the first four tournaments, which is fourteen more than closest rivals Fiji.
But Senatla is without a doubt the talisman for the Blitzboks. He scored the most points and tries for his team. Earlier this week, Senatla was nominated for the Springboks XV training squad, which just underlines his outstanding rugby skills. There is no doubt that he will leave a strong impression in the 15-a-side game as well.
With an England side that is hungry for their first-ever series win and a South African side that knows how to succeed but has to deal without their scoring machine, the next couple of weeks will be absolutely crucial in the race for the 17th World Sevens Series title.