New-look All Blacks Sevens a force to be reckoned with


December 4, 2018 10:40 am

New Zealand celebrate winning the Dubai Sevens. Photo: Satish Kumar/Reuters

CAPE TOWN – In the last three years, the team which wore the Dubai crown went on to win the World Sevens Series.

In the 2015/16 season, Fiji celebrated in Dubai and went on to claim the Series title. In the 2016/17 and 2017/18 campaigns, it was South Africa.

So, is this New Zealand’s year?

It’s way too early to make any kind of predictions, of course, but given the way the New Zealanders have reaffirmed themselves of late, one cannot help but have a proper look at the record 12-time Series winners’ progress.

For the past four years, New Zealand fans have had to become used to their team bagging a tournament win here and there, and draws against the likes of Portugal and Canada and a loss to Japan at the Rio Olympics (where they finished fifth) didn’t do a helluva lot to instill belief.

But this past weekend, the Kiwis won the Dubai event for the first time since 2009 when they beat the USA in the final.

Before their triumph in the UAE, they were also crowned Commonwealth champions and World Cup winners last season.

New Zealand haven’t managed to win the World Series since the 2013/14 season. Since then, they’ve had to be satisfied with third place on two occasions and fourth-place once.

So what’s behind the revival?

New Zealand Sevens coach Clarke Laidlaw has done a lot of things differently in his first year in charge.

Centralisation and the use of Sevens specialists are two things that contributed to their Commonwealth and World Cup glory.

The struggle to keep things consistent in terms of playing personnel was a struggle in the past, with players drifting in and out of the Sevens set-up to fulfil Fifteens commitments.

Sevens no longer seems like an afterthought over there. Things are starting to come together.

But is it enough?

The Blitzboks have been drawn in Pool A for the Cape Town event this weekend alongside New Zealand, Samoa and Zimbabwe.

And while Laidlaw’s men will be keen to continue building, Neil Powell’s charges will want to make up for a poor opening leg.

Who’ll top Pool A on Saturday remains to be seen, but one things for sure – how the Blitzboks fare against New Zealand will reveal a lot about their stance while going through their own rebuilding phase after losing a number of stalwarts to the 15-man game.
@WynonaLouw

Cape Argus

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