‘Some of the best sevens there has been’ – England’s Simon Amor dismisses idea World Series quality is down
His side are looking to add to their win in Vancouver at the Hong Kong Sevens as South Africa attempt to win the event for the first time
Suggestions the standard of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is down in the wake of the Olympics are news to England coach Simon Amor as his in-form side prepare to slug it out in Hong Kong this weekend.
The likes of former Fiji coach Ben Ryan have said the Series is suffering an Olympic hangover and Amor admits some sides have hit the reset button, but is confident Hong Kong fans will not be short-changed.
“When you look at the finals and look at the top teams that have got consistent squads, I think there is some absolutely brilliant sevens rugby being played, some of the best sevens rugby there has been,” Amor said, speaking at the press conference that followed Thursday’s captains photo shoot.
Amor also said his side would be foolish to consider themselves Hong Kong Sevens favourites despite a last-leg win in Vancouver and impressive performances against leaders South Africa.
The Blitzboks will field a young side this weekend in comparison to many of the rounds, with injuries to key playmakers Justin Geduld and Rosko Specman the latest blight on their resources.
While South Africa with four wins and England with two have shared the six legs thus far, Amor pointed to the unpredictable nature of sevens as he directed attention away from England.
“Anyone would be a fool to be considered a favourite in sevens right now,” he said. “It’s a wonderful game to watch because of the closeness of so many of the games and so many of the teams.
“It’s obviously very pleasing to come off the back of winning Vancouver but the tournament starts again so we will reset ourselves.”
South Africa are 23 points clear of England and look to have this year’s World Series sewn up, however Amor is intent on focusing on what he can control as he targets long-term success.
“They [South Africa] have got an unbelievable ruthlessness about the way they play and a very strong team spirit,” Amor said.
“You just cannot in the game of sevens look at other opposition, you have to focus so much on what you are doing as a group and how you can get better.
“There are lots of areas we can still get better at and what is exciting for us is that we have quite a few guys in the mid-20s that have got a few more years left of top-level sevens.”
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While South Africa may not reach the astronomical heights in Hong Kong that they have in some of the tournaments this season, coach Neil Powell is confident fans still have plenty to look forward to as he attempts to orchestrate his side’s first ever win at the home of sevens.
Youngsters Stedman Gans and Zain Davids have impressed Powell in their limited time on the series as the academy programme in South Africa continues to unearth electric sevens players.
“I am very happy with where those new guys are,” Powell said. “Obviously they are lacking experience but I think they understand the fundamentals and understand our system.
“I think the system is strong enough and hopefully those guys can look after the system and also bring their individual brilliance because we discovered them back in South Africa for the way they played.
“We do have systems but we also want to give them that freedom within our systems to play the way they like to play.”
The experienced Tim Agaba is back for South Africa and the agile Selvyn Davids is a chance to debut, while Powell is hoping to get plenty of game time into Gans and Zain Davids.
“They came to Vegas and Vancouver with us but didn’t get a lot of game time,” Powell said. “It is all about just slowly phasing them in and getting them comfortable in their roles on the field.
“I’m hoping to give them some more game time over the weekend. I think we still have a good mix of experience and youngsters in the squad and I’m happy to have the likes of Tim Agaba back that I think will bring a bit of physicality to our team.”
Powell feels there is a handful of teams who can win this weekend, reeling off France, Canada, Samoa and USA as potential surprise packets, while Fiji is one team entering under a weight of expectation.
Former Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber is hoping to use his local knowledge to land the Olympic champions’ first win of the season.
“We play in a high-pressure environment and the learnings as a group that you get over a period of time and the behaviours you establish to ensure you are able to get through pressurised situations is really where it’s at and we all know that,” he said. “We have been working hard on that.”