Sevens World cup preview

In the 2005 Sevens World Cup, South Africa were shocked in the first round when lowly Tunisia beat them – and Paul Treu, the Springbok coach then and now, will emphasise the importance of their first match in this year’s World Cup in Dubai on Thursday.

South Africa start off with a match against Japan on the first day. Japan are not highly rated but are competent enough and will have commitment and pace.

Treu’s men should have no trouble in crossing this first hurdle before more taxingpool matches against Scotland and Canada await on Friday.

A slip-up is unthinkable. With six pools, only the pool winners and the two best second-placed sides advance to the Cup play-offs on Saturday.

South Africa are seeded to meet Argentina, winners of the San Diego tournament of the IRB Sevens World Series, in the quarter-final. They have to fend off Wales in particular, a side that at their best are not to be trifled with.

There are also the United States, who beat the All Blacks three weeks ago and have taken the Springboks all the way in their latest clashes. Argentina should, however, not have too much trouble with Zimbabwe and Uruguay who are also in Pool F.

New Zealand are the top seeds by virtue of their performances since the last World Cup with Fiji seeded second, South Africa third, Samoa fourth, England fifth and Argentina sixth.

New Zealand have been drawn with Tonga, the Arabian Gulf and Italy and despite an average season by their standards, should be Pool A winners.

Their danger game will be against Tonga on Friday while Italy could also be a taxing match to start off with.

Defending champions Fiji, seeded second, have been drawn with France, USA and Georgia in Pool B as they attempt to become the first side to successfully defend the Melrose Cup following their success in Hong Kong four years ago.

France, at their best, could be their biggest threat. But as they showed in the San Diego leg of the IRB World Sevens Series, they are not consistent.

The pools are:

Pool A: New Zealand, Tonga, Arabian Gulf, Italy
Pool B: Fiji, France, USA, Georgia
Pool C: South Africa, Scotland, Canada, Japan
Pool D: Samoa, Australia, Portugal, Ireland
Pool E: England, Kenya, Tunisia, Hong Kong
Pool F: Argentina, Wales, Zimbabwe, Uruguay

The fixtures for Thursday below will be played on two fields (all SA times, in sequence Pitch 1, Pitch 2 and alternating thereafter)

Wales v Zimbabwe 3pm
Kenya v Tunisia 3.10pm
Australia v Portugal 3.22pm
Scotland v Canada 3.32pm
France v USA 3.44pm
Tonga v Arabian Gulf 3.52pm
Samoa v Ireland 4.06pm
Argentina v Uruguay 4.16pm
England v Hong Kong 5.30pm
New Zealand v Italy 5.54pm
Fiji v Georgia 6.16pm
South Africa v Japan 6.38pm

Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 will feature the first ever women’s competition with 16 teams having come through a competitive qualifying process involving 83 nations across the IRB’s six regions.

South Africa have been drawn in Pool C with New Zealand, Italy and Uganda, and must have a good chance of progressing to the quarters with two sides from each pool advancing.

They start their challenge on Friday. They recently thumped Uganda 36-0 in the final of he Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth and also easily accounted for them in the CAR final.

Their match against Italy should therefore be the decided whether they make the quarters.

England, the top seeds in the women’s competition, will face Japan, Russia and USA in Pool B, while second seeds and Oceania champions Australia are joined in Pool A by Netherlands, France and China.

The women’s pools are:

Pool A: Australia, Netherlands, France, China
Pool B: England, Japan, Russia, USA
Pool C: Canada, Brazil, Spain, Thailand
Pool D: New Zealand, South A

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