AUSTRALIA will be the hardest hit of the three Southern Hemisphere giants to field a top-quality side at next year's Hong Kong Sevens. Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are all involved in the Rupert Murdoch-backed Super 12s tournament which will be going on during the March 30-31 Hong Kong Sevens. Although the dates of the Hong Kong Sevens have been pencilled in by the organisers of the Super 12s, who have kept that weekend free of games, the territory will still be affected because of a round of matches on Friday, March 29. On that day, all three Australian state sides who are playing in the Super 12s - New South Wales, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) - will be in action against two South African provincial sides and a New Zealand regional team. 'The way it looks, it seems as if Australia will be the hardest hit and New Zealand the least affected,' said Dave Roberts, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union. This year too, Australia suffered badly due to the commitments of players from NSW and Queensland in the Super 10s. Things can only get worse for the former Hong Kong Sevens champions due to the entry of ACT, and the increased stakes with the presence of Murdoch and his television empire. It is certain that following the deal struck between Murdoch and the three Southern Hemisphere Unions - US$550 million for 10 years - at both Test and provincial level, the best players will have to be available for duty. The Hong Kong Sevens has traditionally been affected by the unavailability of players from the Northern Hemisphere due to the Five Nations Championship and the domestic seasons. Next year, however, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France are all likely to be at full strength as the Five Nations will be over and with those countries treating the Hong Kong Sevens as a dress rehearsal for the 1997 World Cup Sevens. The boot is now on the other foot with the Southern Hemisphere teams facing problems. But although New Zealand will escape lightly, with only one team on duty, it is still uncertain which of their big name players will be missing from Hong Kong's premier sporting event. This is because instead of five provinces representing New Zealand at the Super 12s, the new competition has called for sides being drawn up on regional lines. The country's best players will now be spread around five teams - and which team will be playing on March 29 and who the players will be, remains to be seen.