Change is one of the constants in life and last weekend’s HSBC Canada Sevens in Vancouver was the perfect example of how to merge the old with the new.
South Africa did it magnificently by winning the title with a squad that featured four Series debutants and more seasoned campaigners such as captain Siviwe Soyizwapi and HSBC Dream Team members Ryan Oosthuizen and Dewald Human.
That pair were joined in the Dream Team by one of the debutants, Ronald Brown as well as prolific try-scorer Angelo Davids.
Davids top-scored with 10 tries, a record for Vancouver, but a fractured hand means he is unavailable for this weekend’s 2021 Series finale in Edmonton.
Davids’ place goes to another Davids, experienced playmaker Selwyn Davids stepping in after recovering from an injury of his own.
For the Tokyo Olympian, his inclusion comes as a timely boost. “It is never nice to replace someone who’s suffered an injury, so I feel for Angelo, especially after such a fine performance in Vancouver,” said Davids.
“I am pretty excited to join the guys, especially since the disappointment of not recovering in time to travel with them originally. They have played wonderful rugby in Vancouver, and I know the guys will be keen to keep that high standard of play going.”
"It's the new generation. It's all about instant gratification for them" 😜 https://t.co/Inoi6sXoD3— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) September 24, 2021
The Blitzboks enter the tournament as top seeds and will face hosts Canada, Hong Kong and Mexico in Pool A.
“South Africa are the standout team, and it will be good for our boys to play them,” acknowledged Hong Kong coach Paul John.
“Canada finished a spot ahead of us (in sixth) last week, so it is good that we have an opportunity to play against another core team in our pool.
“Hopefully we can do ourselves justice again and play well against the core teams.”
Kenya not complacent
Pool B consists of Vancouver runners-up Kenya, USA, Spain and Chile. Vancouver was a memorable tournament for the Shujaa on a collective and individual level.
With 18 points in the bag, they are still in a strong position to claim their first-ever World Series title, while half-back Daniel Taabu was named DHL Impact Player and Jeff Oluoch and Alvin Otieno made the Dream Team.
Coach Innocent Simiyu is not getting carried away, however, and refuses to look beyond the pool stage.
“This is a new week, a new tournament and new challenges posed by the teams we are facing. We must, therefore, not allow complacency to check in,” he said.
“USA are a dangerous team who on their day can beat anyone. Chile are very physical and will slow down the game to suit them while Spain are a compact side who will test you to the limit.”
Stars boost Ireland
Great Britain, Ireland, Germany and Jamaica will contest Pool C.
Ireland drew 7-7 with Great Britain in the pool stage in Vancouver but were beaten 24-14 in the bronze medal decider between the teams.
However, they go into the Edmonton tournament considerably stronger for the presence of 2020 Series top try-scorer Jordan Conroy and fellow Olympian Billy Dardis. Aaron O'Sullivan joins them in Edmonton with Gavin Mullin, Ed Kelly and Mark Roche all ruled out through injury.
A fourth-place finish in Vancouver was Ireland's best placing as a World Series core team, and the exposure of nine debutants to international action across the weekend was a real positive at the start of a new Olympic cycle.
"It was great to see the team perform so well in Vancouver and they have taken a lot of learnings from that tournament that should put them in a better position this weekend,” said IRFU Director of Sevens, Anthony Eddy.
"What is really exciting is to see some of the young men that have no experience of this level of competition perform so well and they will continue to develop and become very important players for the team during the 2021/2022 World Series."
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 title will be awarded on Sunday as the shortened Series concludes following the pair of events hosted in Canada.
Given the unique circumstances due to the global pandemic, there will be no relegation from the 2021 Series and the results will not contribute towards seedings for any other future events.
Like South Africa’s men, Great Britain’s women will be looking to back up their success in Vancouver this weekend.
The GB team went through the Fast Four tournament unbeaten with wins against Mexico, Canada and USA and co-captain Abbie Brown was pleased with the consistency of performance at BC Place.
“We only had two sessions before we came out as a squad so to put in a performance like that is unbelievable and shows a lot about our heart and our grit as a squad,” said Brown.
“To come out and do one good performance is great but to back it up five times is even better. We spoke about how we had to get better with each game, and that’s what we did,”