After just five days to rest and recover from a lengthy and bruising Las Vegas weekend, the 16 teams have landed in Canada’s third largest city, the picturesque west-coast metropolis of Vancouver in order to crown the winner of the sixth stage of this year’s HSBC Sevens World Series.
Following the launch of the event in 2016, the Canada Sevens have been proven to be a massive success and ticket sales for the only tournament played on artificial turf have even picked up this year. A huge crowd of 76,000 rugby-mad supporters are expected to turn up over the next couple of days.
While the party on the ranks of the state-of-the-art BC Place Stadium is set, it is now down to the teams on the pitch to deliver a worthy entertainment programme. The Blitzboks are entering the sixth stage of the series as massive favourites with four out of five tournament wins and just two of their 30 matches lost.
However, despite the overwhelming South African dominance at the HSBC World Sevens Series this year, Blitzboks coach Neil Powell warned this week:
“Unfortunately there is a lot of talk that we have the series sewn up, which cannot be further from the truth,” he said.
“One bad tournament, where you don't make the semi-finals, could derail our momentum significantly. The last thing I want to players to think of is a fifth tournament win or our lead in the series and then getting ahead of themselves. We dare not to look past Chile in that first pool game.”
Besides Chile, Pool A also includes England and Kenya, two teams who are capable of beating the Boks’ as proven in the past. Especially England, who finished in a disappointing 5th position in Las Vegas are eager to close the two-point gap to second-placed Fiji who is just sitting above Simon Amor’s men at the moment.
Fiji, drawn in Pool B with Argentina, Samoa and Wales have shown a significant increasing performance last weekend, but the discipline did let the Olympic champions down eventually when they lost to South Africa in the final.
Like Fiji, the USA also played with huge confidence boost in Sin City. Supported by an enthusiastic crowd, the hosts only just lost to South Africa in the semi-final but got away with a well-deserved Bronze final win against New Zealand. If they can carry the momentum over to this weekend, they might be able to win their Pool C where they meet Australia, France and Japan.
Finally, in Pool D the Canadians will go head to head with New Zealand, Scotland and Russia. Canada who had their best result in January when they lost to Scotland in the Wellington Bronze Final, will certainly don’t want to let their home fans down on this special occasion. The team, under the guidance of former Samoa coach Damian McGrath, experienced some major upsets in recent years such as the missed Rio-qualification and significant cuts in funding. This weekend could be a golden opportunity to unleash their potential in front of 10000s of Canadian fans.
WHERE AND WHEN?
The Canada Sevens take place at the BC Place Stadium (Capacity 54,500) in Vancouver, from Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th of March. The matches kick-off on Saturday at 09:30 local time (GMT -8) and Sunday 09:30 local time. The final is scheduled for 18:19 local time on Sunday
WHERE CAN I SEE IT?
In the UK Sky Sports will cover the tournament on all days. For a full TV guide click here, for any other country check out this handy guide.
ONE TO WATCH
Since Seabelo Senatla has left the Blitzboks to join Super Rugby franchise Stormers, questions arose about who could replace the brilliant all-rounder. Last weekend Roscko Specman put his name in the head with a spectacular man of the final performance is the man. The 27-year old is now one of the most exciting prospects on the tour.
Pool A: South Africa, England, Kenya, Chile
Pool B: Fiji, Argentina, Samoa, Wales
Pool C: Australia, France, Japan, USA
Pool D: Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, Russia
DAY ONE SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES ARE LOCAL TIMES)
Australia v France – 09:30
United States v Japan – 09:52
Argentina v Samoa – 10:14
Fiji v Wales – 10:36
England v Kenya – 10:58
South Africa v Chile – 11:20
Canada v Scotland – 11:42
New Zealand v Russia – 12:04
Australia v Japan – 13:06
United States v France – 13:28
Argentina v Wales – 13:50
Fiji v Samoa – 14:12
England v Chile – 14:34
South Africa v Kenya – 14:56
Canada v Russia – 15:18
New Zealand v Scotland – 15:40
France v Japan – 16:46
United States v Australia – 17:08
Samoa v Wales – 17:30
Fiji v Argentina – 17:52
Kenya v Chile – 18:14
South Africa v England – 18:36
Scotland v Russia – 18:58
New Zealand v Canada – 19:20