Following two enthralling days of action and 64 fast-paced matches, it was Australia and South Africa who took their places on top of the podium in Dubai.
The opening tournament of the revamped HSBC SVNS 2024 certainly did not disappoint, and storylines emerged from every corner of The Sevens Stadium.
As the 24 teams head to South Africa to do it all again at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens 2023, we recap seven things we learned from the Emirates Dubai 7s.
Australia feel at home in Dubai
Australia captain Charlotte Caslick summed it up nicely in the immediate aftermath of her side’s victory in the women’s Cup final at The Sevens Stadium.
“We love coming to Dubai,” she said, having helped Australia to a women’s record fourth consecutive Dubai title. “We love the fans here, playing in front of you guys.”
Caslick and her team-mates certainly feel at home in the heat of Dubai. Without a tournament title since their last visit to the United Arab Emirates 12 months ago, the three-time series champions laid down a serious marker for the season ahead over the weekend.
Australia conceded only five points in the pool stage as Brazil, Japan and Ireland were beaten before a comfortable Cup quarter-final victory against USA was followed by a much tighter semi-final win over France.
In the final, against a Black Ferns Sevens side on a record 41-match winning run, heads could have dropped when Jorja Miller struck to complete her hat-trick and help level the scores at 19-19. However, Maddison Levi provided the winning touch with time running out to give their bid to regain the overall title the perfect start.
Blitzboks “restore pride” by scaling podium
Not to be outdone by Australia’s women, South Africa stretched their own record run of Dubai men’s titles by edging past Argentina to win gold for the fifth consecutive tournament at The Sevens Stadium.
Few outside of the Blitzboks camp would have backed them to win in Dubai given they had endured a difficult year in which they missed out on Olympic qualification via both the series and African qualifying.
Add to the mix injuries to key players, including long-time captain Siviwe Soyizwapi, and coach Sandile Ngcobo, who were both absent from the UAE, and a 10th Dubai title looked a tall order.
But South Africa came to life in the desert, beating defending series champions New Zealand in Pool A and following that up with victories against Australia and Fiji in the knockout rounds. Those wins set up a Cup final against Argentina, and early tries from Impi Visser and Shilton van Wyk proved decisive despite a yellow card to Ryan Oosthuizen early in the second half.
“We said we wanted to leave everything on the field,” acting head coach Philip Snyman said. “They played for the jersey and they restored pride in the Springbok Sevens jersey.”
Maddison Levi back with a bang
Australia’s prolific speedster Maddison Levi picked up where she left off last season as she set a new women’s try-scoring record for a tournament in Dubai.
Levi crossed the whitewash 12 times in six matches at The Sevens Stadium, including for the try that secured the gold medal for her side.
The forward – who scored a phenomenal 57 tries during the 2023 series – scored at least two tries in every match she played over the weekend bar the final, in which the decisive effort was her sole contribution.
Australia’s rivals will need to find a way to shut down the space that Levi so eagerly exploits, but that could prove easier said than done.
Gastón Revol remains a force
Gastón Revol might be closing in on becoming the first player to appear in 100 SVNS tournaments, but he shows no sign of slowing down on the pitch.
It was Revol who answered Argentina’s call on Sunday when they needed a moment of guile to break through a stubborn New Zealand defence and seal their passage to the men’s Cup final.
He had already played a key playmaking role in a move that appeared to be losing momentum as Marcos Moneta was ushered sideways across the pitch by the All Blacks Sevens defence.
But, after Tobias Wade had added some impetus to the attack, it was Revol who took a pass from Moneta close to the line and powered his way through two tackles to score the winning try.
Black Ferns Sevens set new record run
The Black Ferns Sevens came up short for the first time in seven series tournaments, but there were plenty of positives in Dubai, not least the fact that they built a new women’s record winning run.
Victory over South Africa, narrower than many would have expected, equalled their previous record of 37 wins while the subsequent defeat of Great Britain – which came at a cost, with captain Sarah Hirini injured – set a new mark.
That was extended with victories against Fiji, Brazil – which included a 100th New Zealand try for Kelly Brazier – and Canada before the run came to a shuddering halt at 41 matches in the Cup final against arch rivals Australia.
This leaves New Zealand men still holding the longest winning run in series history, having won 47 matches in a row between May 2007 and April 2008.
New men’s format proves thrilling
If Dubai provided a taste of what is to come during men’s SVNS 2024 then we would like to order seconds, please.
The reduction of competing teams from 16 to 12 meant there was no room for error, and it made for a weekend of high intensity, high stakes rugby sevens.
Nowhere was that more evident than in Pool C, where all four teams – USA, Fiji, France and Great Britain – won at least one match. The latter two missed out on a place in the Cup quarter-finals on points difference, but France made amends on day two beating Spain and Great Britain to finish ninth.
The highlight of their ninth-place play-off win against Great Britain was an eccentric sliding celebration from captain Stephen Parez Edo Martin that left RugbyPass TV commentator Sean Maloney in hysterics.
South Africa women prove they belong
Despite finishing their first series tournament as a core team since 2015 in 10th, the Springbok Women’s Sevens return home to Cape Town full of confidence.
South Africa laid down a marker in their opening match in Dubai, leading defending series champions New Zealand 14-5 at half-time thanks in no small part to an outrageous off-the-floor offload from co-captain Zintle Mpupha.
Although the Black Ferns Sevens recovered to win the match 19-14, they completed their pool stage commitments with similar close defeats to Fiji and Great Britain.
Their first win of the season arrived against Spain on day two as a Nadine Roos brace helped them to a 17-0 victory against Spain. South Africa would go on to lose the ninth-place play-off against Japan but they had already done enough to suggest they will not give up their core status without a fight this season.