NEW Zealand are hobbling, Fiji purring, England prowling, the USA flying and South Africa are straining just days before the inaugural leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Cape Town.
The All Blacks, who have won four of the last five World Series, could barely put a team out in the latter stages of the Dubai event last weekend after being ravaged by injury. Fiji won the event at a canter, England were runners-up, the USA made the semis by beating NZ and South Africa, and the Blitzboks were in imperious form in the pool stages before coming unstuck against the USA.
By the end of the second day of the opening round, NZ had lost five key players. Captain Scott Curry (dislocated shoulder), Gillies Kaka (ankle), Tim Mikkelson (concussion), Sherwin Stowers (broken arm) and Regan Ware (ankle) have all returned to New Zealand.
Veteran DJ Forbes has
resumed the captaincy for this week and he is excited by the challenge of integrating so many new faces quickly.
Last week, NZ also lost twice to the USA, which was a first.
Forbes is not perturbed by the team’s performance last week given the injury challenges they faced.
“All in all, I think Dubai was pretty tragic in terms of injury toll but we learnt a lot,” he said.
“Getting some of the young blood into the team was crucial and the only way you are going to get good at sevens is to experience tough tournaments.”
The USA pose a real threat, especially as they have two of the fastest men in the game in their ranks, in wings Carlin Isles and Perry Baker.
England were excellent in Dubai and despite losing the final to the brilliant Fijians, appear to be a dangerous threat to the islanders this week.
The Blitzboks played some superb rugby in Dubai but will need to show more consistency if they hope to retain the South African title they won last year in Port Elizabeth.
They will have to defend the South African leg of the world series in Cape Town the hard way after two of their star players were ruled out yesterday.
Current world player of the year Werner Kok and chief playmaker Cecil Afrika will miss the Cape Town event with knee and hamstring injuries respectively.
Kok will undergo an operation today that will rule him out for several months.
Coach Neil Powell could not put a timeframe on Kok’s return, but said Afrika should be back early next year.
Rosko Specman and the uncapped Dylan Sage will replace the injured duo.