Preview: Cape Town Sevens

Round two of the 2015/16 World Sevens Series takes place in Cape Town on 12 and 13 December, and there's plenty at stake for the 16 participating teams.

Having moved from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town for the new-look 10 round series, there's plenty of excitement in South Africa's Mother City ahead of what promises to be an exciting tournamentat the 55,000-seater Cape Town Stadium, which is already sold out on both days.

Fiji sit on top of the standings, after winning in Dubai last weekend, with England, USA and New Zealand completing the top four and heading the respective pools. 

The flying Fijians head Pool A and face matches with Scotland, Russia and Argentina.

Hosts and defending champions South Africa, who won the Plate in Dubai and will compete against fellow African countries Kenya and Zimbabwe, and England, in Pool B on day one.

Tom Mitchell, who captained England to second place in Dubai and was named in the Dubai dream team, alongside team-mate Phil Burgress, having returned from injury in excellent form, is expecting a very physical challenge to open the weekeend.

"No doubt it's going to be a very physical first day for us with three tough opponents," said Mitchell. 

"I think the third game will be the highlight for the crowd, obviously playing South Africa at home is a huge opportunity to experience here in Cape Town.

"A lot of the challenge of the second week is to get your bodies into a good state going into the second weekend. It’s also important to get a bit of down time in the second week, so we will be looking to get that balance right. We want to improve a few things going into this weekend, nothing too specific, just a little bit of our top standards in terms of the rugby we played."

With week two offering something different for all the teams, in England's case they have a lot of positives to take from Dubai and Mitchell was in a reflective mood when asked about their performance.

"It [Dubai] was an amazing experience and the guys did well to get to the final," added Mitchell. "We had some really close games against some very tough opposition so it was really pleasing to get to that stage. We’re really pleased with the way the guys battled to the end but in the end it wasn’t quite enough.

"There were about three to four minutes in the final that let us down against a very good Fijian side and fair play to them they played some outstanding rugby across the weekend and we just fell short.

"It’s always good to start well, especially after such a long pre-season. I think we have got steps forward that we can take in terms of our performances and the rugby we played, but I think the guys have got their heads around it and our attitude going into the weekend was spot on, so we will look to build on that going into Cape Town this weekend."

South Africa are aiming for a third straight Cup win on home soil after two successive wins in Port Elizabeth.

Springbok Sevens skipper Kyle Brown and his team-mates are excited by the prospects of playing in front of a capacity crowd at Cape Town Stadium. 

“The support of the fans in Cape Town haven been absolutely fantastic so far this week,” he said. 

“I think our performances the previous years in PE has shown that we can handle the pressure of playing at home. We have spoken about the pressure and the expectations of the home crowd and we are embracing the challenge.”

Blitzboks coach Neil Powell said the squad was in a good mental space. 

“The guys are up for it and looking forward to play in front of 110,000 fans over the two days,” revealed Powell. 

“I am happy with our preparations and we have worked really hard to solve the mistakes we made in Dubai.”

The USA are determined to continue where they left off in Dubai when they beat New Zealand convincingly in the play-off for third place. 

The Eagles won their  first-ever tournament in London earlier this year and showed in Dubai that they will be serious contenders in Cape Town.

USA are here to make an impact and under the tutelage of head coach Mike Friday and his management team there is a lot of expectation already on the Eagles to perform this weekend. In the driving seat of the juggernaut is captain Madison Hughes, who is excited to see USA hitting new heights.

“I think London earlier in the year was awesome for us,” he said. 

“We had the whole team clicking and I think at times in Dubai we hit similar notes as we beat New Zealand twice and knocked off South Africa in the quarter- final.

"Those were really good wins for us and we were really excited about that. There were a couple of key areas where we weren’t quite where we wanted to be and those cost us against England and France so we are looking to improve on those and continue the momentum into Cape Town.”

USA will face Wales, Australia and Portugal in Pool C and Hughes is expecting there to be some tough contests come Saturday.

“We figure there are going to be some tough tests in our pool with Australia, Wales and Portugal,” added Hughes. 

“Australia were above us in the standings last year, Wales will give a good match against anyone and I think Portugal had a rough week in Dubai but will be looking to bounce back.”

New Zealand had a disastrous run with injuries in Dubai and will 

By the end of the second day of the opening round in Dubai, head coach Sir Gordon Tietjens 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 flown home. To say Dubai was attritional is an understatement.

One player who has seen it all before is DJ Forbes. He has been involved in the New Zealand Sevens set-up now for almost a decade. With Curry returning home, Forbes has reassumed the captaincy duties and is level headed in his assessment of Dubai.

In Dubai, New Zealand lost twice to USA and were pushed to a three point victory by Samoa, as well as losing out to Fiji in the Cup semi-finals. 

That said, they still managed to finish fourth and gain some vital points towards the overall series. But which areas does DJ think need to be worked on ahead of the Cape Town Sevens?

"If you look at some of our crucial games from Dubai, you’ll see the kick offs are key and this is something we will be putting a lot of emphasis on at Cape Town," he said. 

"Everyone knows sevens is about possession and a lot of those games could have come down to the bounce of the ball. 

"That’s probably where we let ourselves down a little bit so we will be working on that area of our game. All in all with the amount of men we had left standing we still did some really good things so we're really excited about another weekend and getting back into it."

New Zealand will face France, Canada and Samoa. They beat both France and Samoa in Dubai yet Forbes is wary of being complacent.

"It just gets tougher and tougher. We’ve already been extremely close against Samoa at Dubai and Canada are going to be chomping at the bit and will have been disappointed with how they did last weekend," added Forbes. 

"France will be thinking they missed out against us as well and they will have confidence after winning the Bowl, so I guess it’s going to set up an interesting Pool."

Pools for Cape Town Sevens:
Pool A: Fiji, Argentina, Scotland, Russia
Pool B: England, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe
Pool C: USA, Australia, Wales, Portugal
Pool D: New Zealand, Samoa, France, Canada

Day One, schedule – Saturday, December 12
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus two hours)

USA v Wales – 10:15 
Australia v Portugal – 10:37
Fiji v Scotland – 10:59
Argentina v Russia – 11:21
New Zealand v France – 11:43
Samoa v Canada – 12:05
England v Kenya – 12:27
South Africa v Zimbabwe – 12:49
USA v Portugal – 13:36
Australia v Wales – 13:58
Fiji v Russia – 14:20
Argentina v Scotland – 14:42
New Zealand v Canada – 15:04
Samoa v France – 15:26
England v Zimbabwe – 15:48
South Africa v Kenya – 16:10
Wales v Portugal – 16:57
USA v Australia – 17:19
Scotland v Russia – 17:41
Fiji v Argentina – 18:03
France v Canada – 18:50
New Zealand v Samoa – 19:12
Kenya v Zimbabwe – 19:34
South Africa v England – 19:56

With thanks to World Rugby