This year’s Hong Kong Sevens is set to be the most open in years, says Fiji legend Serevi
Fiji and New Zealand are struggling a little, with England and South Africa in superb form
Fiji and New Zealand are pretty much used to having it their way at the Hong Kong Sevens.
The two sides, who played out last year’s final with Fiji winning 21-7, have won the tournament 27 times between them in its 40-year history, including the last six titles.
But their days of dominance may be over, according to Fiji legend Waisale Serevi.
“If you ask anyone in the world, any coaches, they will say it is an open tournament,” Serevi told the South China Morning Post. “Not like before when it was New Zealand and Fiji.
“Now there’s about six teams that have the opportunity to win it. So it should be exciting.”
South Africa are certainly the form team going into Hong Kong Stadium. With victories in four of the six tournaments so far, they lead this season’s World Sevens Series standings by 23 points above second-placed England – who beat the Blitzboks in the Vancouver final earlier this month.
“South Africa are the team to beat,” added Serevi, who won two Rugby Sevens World Cups in Hong Kong.
“But England has shown they are capable of toppling South Africa if they have that opportunity.
“Ninety per cent of them played in the Olympics, and they have been together the last five years I believe. England, they always play better too in Hong Kong.”
Olympic champions Fiji have rather struggled since their win in Rio and are without a tournament victory on the World Series this season – and new coach Gareth Baber, formerly in charge of Hong Kong, is already under pressure from fans who expect to win every event.
England come to Hong Kong brimming with confidence after their Vancouver victory and are the only team to beat South Africa so far this season, achieving the feat on three occasions including the finals in both Cape Town and Vancouver.
Coach Simon Amor has England flying, with James Rodwell, Dan Norton and Dan Bibby leading the way. The players who made up the bulk Team GB’s Olympic silver-medal-winning squad will also be helped by an injury to Blitzboks runner Justin Geduld, with the playmaker joining superstar Rosko Specman on the sidelines.
South Africa are also without try machine Seabelo Senatla, who joined Super Rugby team Stormers after the Sydney Sevens, and England will fancy their chances of further trimming the gap between the two sides.
The United States are another team heading to Hong Kong in form and Serevi has a first-hand view of just how strong the game is in the country.
The 48-year-old is now living in Seattle, Washington helping to endorse and grow the game of rugby among children with his company Atavus Rugby and Football.
“USA they have been doing well,” he said. “They are among the teams that can win this tournament easily. I won’t be surprised if USA will make it to the top four in Hong Kong this year.”
But count Fiji and New Zealand out at your peril, of course.
“I can say that Fiji, if any tournament they always wanna win and it’s always special to keep the people happy, it’s this,” added Serevi. “New Zealand is trying to win form but that team knows how to play and win games in Hong Kong.”
Fiji, too, are searching for form and are without a win since the departure of coach Ben Ryan after the team claimed its country’s first ever Olympic medal at Rio last summer.
New coach Gareth Baber has struggled to fill Ryan’s shoes but Serevi has backed the Welshman to deliver next weekend.
“Fiji will be coming to the Hong Kong Sevens very strong this year,” Serevi said. “But Ben Ryan, his first sevens he didn’t win. So it’s the same thing now with Gareth Baber.
“He’s trying to see which players fit his game plan, he’s trying to find players for the World Cup next year like every other team.
“With Isake Katonibau and Jasa Veremalua back in the squad, it will give them more strength.”