Australia head coach Tim Walsh has challenged his side to pick up where they left off in Dubai as they bid to win a first tournament title in Cape Town this weekend.
Maddison Levi scored a tournament record 12 tries at the Emirates Dubai 7s as Australia kicked off HSBC SVNS 2024 with a gold medal, their fourth successive win at The Sevens Stadium.
The victorious campaign included knockout wins against USA, France and the Black Ferns Sevens – as they ended New Zealand’s 41-match winning run in the final – the three teams that finished with them in the top four of the 2023 series standings.
Walsh, who has named an unchanged 13-player squad for this weekend, is hopeful Australia can make it two tournament wins from two at DHL Stadium as they set their sights on a fourth overall title.
“The challenge this week is to continue where we finished in Dubai. Day two in Dubai was one of the best performances I have seen from this team," Walsh said.
“We beat the next best three teams in the world in true Australian Women Sevens style. We played ruthlessly and adapted to each opposition accordingly – it was a very polished performance filled with desire and skill.
“We are under no illusion that Cape Town won’t be a challenge, and we are embracing our preparation and immersing ourselves in our work.”
Australia will begin their Cape Town campaign against Spain at 09:22 local time (GMT+2) on Saturday and are also joined by Fiji and Japan in Pool A.
Fijiana finished fifth in Dubai, having been beaten by France in the Cup quarter-finals, while Japan and Spain had to make do with the ninth-place play-offs on day two.
Japan rallied to beat Great Britain and South Africa to claim ninth place, but Spain finished the tournament bottom of the standings having lost to the same opposition last Sunday.
New Zealand defend Cape Town title
New Zealand will be without captain Sarah Hirini as they begin their quest for a third successive tournament win in Cape Town on Saturday against Great Britain (kick-off 09:00 local time).
Hirini suffered a knee injury in the Black Ferns Sevens’ second pool match, against the same opposition, at The Sevens Stadium.
She has subsequently been ruled out of HSBC SVNS 2024 Cape Town with Tysha Ikenasio taking her place in the travelling squad.
Despite needing a last-minute try from their captain to edge past South Africa in their opening match in Dubai – after which Hirini claimed her side “just didn’t play like New Zealand” – the Black Ferns Sevens beat Great Britain, Fiji, Brazil and Canada to book their place in the final.
That run also stretched the women’s record winning streak they had set in the pool stage to 41 matches, a run that would come to an end in the Cup final as Levi scored the match-winning try.
Cory Sweeney’s defending series champions will be keen to recover from the setback of missing out on gold in Dubai in a similar fashion to last season, when they won 36 successive matches to win six straight tournaments.
New Zealand will be reacquainted with Brazil as well as Great Britain in Cape Town, while Ireland, who finished sixth in Dubai, complete the Pool B line-up.
Ireland head coach Allan Temple-Jones has made one injury-enforced change to his squad ahead of this weekend’s action, as Lucinda Kinghan replaces Kathy Baker.
Following their defeat to the Black Ferns Sevens in the Dubai quarter-finals, Brazil were beaten by USA to finish the tournament eighth.
Great Britain, meanwhile, ended a disappointing campaign on a high by beating Spain in the 11th-place play-off and will hope that can be a springboard to a better result in Cape Town this weekend.
Springbok Women’s Sevens confident ahead of home test
South Africa co-captain Zintle Mpupha is confident her side can cause a few surprises as they line up in a stacked Pool C at their home tournament in Cape Town.
The Springbok Women’s Sevens were seconds away from securing the biggest result in their history in their opening match in Dubai, before Hirini’s late try secured a 19-14 victory for the Black Ferns Sevens.
Mpupha, who has been ruled out of the tournament in Cape Town due to a concussion, and South Africa ultimately had to settle for 10th place last weekend, but their performances at The Sevens Stadium suggested they will be no pushovers this season.
And the team certainly won’t fear any of their Pool C rivals, despite going up against Dubai bronze medallists France, Canada and USA – who came third in the 2023 series – on day one at DHL Stadium.
“I know they are core teams on the circuit... they're big teams, all of them reached the quarter-finals last week,” Mpupha told World Rugby this week.
“You know, it's where we want to be and that's the challenge we all want to face each and every tournament. And we're really up for the challenge as well.
“Nothing ever comes easy and we're really going to fight for it and just stick together like we always do. And you never know what will happen at the end of the day.”
Canada secured their best tournament result since February 2020 as they finished fourth in Dubai, and they will begin their campaign in Cape Town with a mouth-watering match against USA at 09:44 local time.
USA finished a disappointing seventh at The Sevens Stadium and will be keen to return to the Cup semi-finals this weekend.
Canada end their Pool C commitments – and day one’s women’s schedule – with a replay of last week’s bronze final against France (kick-off 17:06 local time), which offers an early chance for revenge.
France coach David Corteix has named an unchanged travelling squad for the trip to Cape Town as they go in search of their first ever Cup title, having finished fourth and fifth previously at DHL Stadium.