Tournament: Dubai, Date: December 4-5, Tournament points: 1,677, Tournament tries: 269, Tournament tackles: 1,364, Tournament winner: South Africa
For the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2016-17 and the first tournament since rugby sevens’ debut at the Olympic Games, there were high expectations in Dubai and the action didn’t disappoint.
With coaching changes aplenty, including Ben Ryan’s departure from Fiji, Damian McGrath’s move to Canada and New Zealand’s interim coaches taking over, the outcome in Dubai was far from a foregone conclusion. The highlights of the Cup quarter-finals were England’s dramatic 24-21 sudden death win over Scotland and Wales’ first Cup quarter-final win since Glasgow in 2013, when they beat Australia 21-12.
Fiji beat England 31-12 in the Cup semi-final, a repeat of the 2015 Dubai final, and South Africa continued their march onwards with a convincing 36-5 victory over Wales in the other side of the draw. With a Fiji-South Africa final set up, it was the Blitzboks who blew away the Pacific islanders with a four-try 26-14 win. South Africa, series runners-up for four years, started their 2016-17 campaign with a bang.
Tournament: Cape Town, Date: December 10-11, Tournament points: 1,787, Tournament tries: 276, Tournament tackles: 1,438, Tournament winner: England
Onwards the series rolled to the picturesque scenery of Cape Town. South Africa, on home soil, looked firm favourites after progressing to the Cup final, beating Wales in quarters (33-0) and New Zealand in the semis (14-7), but faced an England side in fine form in the final. Coach Simon Amor’s side had beaten Scotland once more in the business end of the tournament, winning 33-14 in the Cup semi-final, and faced a fierce home crowd.
In the final, despite Werner Kok scoring in the final few seconds with England down to six men, a missed conversion from Justin Geduld ensured Amor’s side won their first Cup since Tokyo 2015, and narrowly trailed the Blitzboks in the series standings going into Wellington.
Tournament: Wellington, Date: January 28-29, Tournament points: 1,597, Tournament tries: 253, Tournament tackles: 1,574, Tournament winner: South Africa
It was the Sonny Bill Williams show back in 2016 at the HSBC Wellington Sevens, and in 2017 it was all about South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla. The Blitzboks flyer was top try-scorer in the tournament with eight, won the DHL Impact Player and was also named the HSBC Player of the Final after his side bagged their second win of the series with a 26-5 victory over Fiji.
Earlier in the tournament, it was Canada who had looked like a surprise package, getting to the Cup semi-finals after beating Argentina 17-12 in the last eight. Scotland had also exacted revenge on England with a 14-12 win in the Cup quarters, but it was Fiji and South Africa who eventually made it to their second head-to-head final meeting of the series.
Tournament: Sydney, Date: February 4-5, Tournament points: 1,498, Tournament tries: 239, Tournament tackles: 1,446, Tournament winner: South Africa
Momentum was with Neil Powell’s South Africa outfit, going into the fourth tournament of the series with three finals and two tournament wins under their belt. In Sydney, hosts Australia looked dangerous, beating Wales 26-0 in the Cup quarter-finals. New Zealand also found themselves in the semi-finals, after beating Fiji 24-21 in a thrilling quarter-final.
England’s consistency prevailed, beating New Zealand 12-5 in the Cup semi-finals, while South Africa beat the hosts 26-12 to reach their fifth consecutive final on the series. Having lost out to England in Cape Town, Powell’s side produced a clinical masterclass in finishing to win 29-14. Four tournaments, three wins.
Could 2016-17 be their time?
- World Rugby