Former England Sevens captain Rob Vickerman reflects on a scintillating leg in Dubai and previews the forthcoming HSBC World Rugby Sevens series tournament in Cape Town.
There are some places on the HSBC Sevens Series that have a very different type of vibe, and Cape Town is one of those. It doesn’t have the same man-made extravagances as Dubai last week, but the mountain in the backdrop and the ocean side setting makes it a great place for the players to relax and recuperate after a tournament as tight as I can remember.
Everything about the Dubai Sevens is action packed. The significant amount of social teams, competitions, rides and attractions and constant music around the site, be it for 7’s, 10’s or netball gives is a fair comparable as the rugby version of Glastonbury. 42 debutants took to the field, but one of the most celebrated stars, Dan Norton, needs a special mention as he has become an exclusive member of the 300 try club, as attested to by his Dad, Aubrey, who even had a flag made.
I have had the pleasure and at times mis-fortune of playing alongside Dan for many years and there are few better on the planet.
Luck of the Draw
My first recollection of the women’s event was how fantastic it was to see England back on form, winning three out of three pool games, including a superb game against one of the titans, Australia. Their prize for this feat was brutal, as they then replayed Australia who were a completely different team, breaking the hearts of cup progression and shattering the hopes of silverware.
Back in Black
Once again the New Zealand outfit claimed the men’s and the women’s events, taking their run to five successive titles, including the Rugby World Cup Sevens and Glendale for the women. While this may not be a shock for the women’s side of events, as they are fringing on being unbeatable, the All Black Sevens men’s team ended a nine-year drought in the desert - some stat given their association of success in sevens. The Fiji and South African dominance of Dubai in recent times has now ended with both teams losing in the quarter-finals, adding more excitement to a points table with the top four places coveted.
Captivating Cape Town
Of all of the sights in the 10 legs I was privileged to go to last year there were few moments as spine tingling as the sight of 50,000 people making audible electricity as the home team, the Blitzboks, came running out to 50 foot flames and an AC/DC ‘Thunder’ track befitting a rock concert. The energy that iconic stadium showcases makes for an incredible setting and teams lift their game even though many are physically drained.
The Cape Town pool draw post Dubai final also washed away the instant reflection of USA showing their capabilities, and turned the thoughts and focus to a savage couple of pools which can often happen when big teams exit in the earlier stages.
England have drawn Fiji who will be looking to right some wrongs – which is never a nice prospect, with their new players seemingly taking time to embed alongside their more usual campaigners. Kenya will have their returning XVs stars back in some way, but my initial thoughts are to look across at the Pool C crossover and see that USA and Argentina are the likely Day 2 opponents.
Pool A will give us the day highlight, as New Zealand and South Africa will be a moment truly made for the famed titled entry theme of ‘Thunder!’ Australia being their likely crossover team in Pool D, who were outstanding in Dubai – so once again we are well placed for a captivating weekend in the Cape.