Australia, South Africa arrive in Cape Town full of confidence
Australia opened the women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with a perfect two days in Dubai, while South Africa’s men warmed up for their home tournament with victory at The Sevens Stadium.
Australia’s women and South Africa’s men will head into this weekend’s HSBC Cape Town Sevens full of confidence having maintained their recent excellent form in Dubai.
The Blitzboks have now won four Emirates Dubai 7s titles in a row after they recovered from an opening defeat to Great Britain at The Sevens Stadium to beat Kenya, Australia, Samoa, New Zealand and Ireland en route to glory.
It means that South Africa sit top of the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 standings, level on points with Australia, ahead of their home tournament.
Maddison Levi was the star for Australia’s women, meanwhile, scoring 11 tries at The Sevens Stadium as her side opened their Series defence with a third successive title in Dubai.
Since the women’s Series returned at the end of 2021, Australia have won five of seven tournaments and will want to continue that run in South Africa.
As the teams gather in Cape Town for the city’s first Series event for three years, we recap what happened during a stunning two days of sevens in Dubai.
Australia make winning start
In the lead-up to the women’s season opener, Australia made it clear they wanted to improve on a record-breaking 2022 in which they won Series, Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens titles, and the team was dominant in Dubai.
China, Canada and the USA were beaten by an aggregate score of 98-19, Levi scoring seven of her team’s 16 pool stage tries.
Ireland and New Zealand also qualified for the Cup quarter-finals with a 100 per cent record, where the former’s campaign was ended by a 5-0 defeat to USA.
The Black Ferns Sevens beat USA 36-0 in the semi-finals, while Australia won 38-5 against France to set up a repeat of the RWC Sevens 2022 final at The Sevens Stadium.
Australia had edged that one 24-22 and led by two points at half-time in Dubai. Second-half tries from Levi and Demi Hayes made sure of victory before New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde completed her hat-trick late on to make the final score 26-19.
“It was always going to be a tough final against them,” Australia co-captain Demi Hayes said.
“A credit to them, (the Black Ferns) are always a tough opponent so to come out on top was a good win for the girls.”
Earlier, USA held on to beat France 21-19 and win the bronze final, the team’s highest finish since winning in Malaga in January.
Duarttee “thankful for opportunity”
Dubai proved to be a dream Series debut for Ricardo Duarttee as he played a starring role to help the Blitzboks win a fourth title in a row at The Sevens Stadium.
It might not have seemed that way following the opening match, in which South Africa lost to Great Britain for the second successive tournament. However, Duarttee and his team-mates responded brilliantly.
The Blitzboks beat Kenya and Australia to top Pool A, before Duarttee scored two tries in the 24-19 quarter-final win against Samoa.
He then scored nine points in the semi-final defeat of New Zealand, having assumed kicking duties, and converted all three of his side’s tries in the 21-5 final victory against Ireland.
“I had free reign almost, coach Stix (Sandile Ngcobo) told me to go out there and enjoy myself, but not to forget the basics. I did just that," Duarttee said.
"There was no pressure because of what the coach told me. I know it’s going to become tougher from here on in, but I will also get better the more I play.
“I’m so thankful for this opportunity. Now Cape Town awaits.”
Victory catapulted the Blitzboks to the top of the men’s Series standings ahead of their home tournament and they will hope to consolidate that position as they chase both the overall title and Olympic qualification.
Kurt Baker’s Series career ended with victory as he came on in the second-half of the bronze final against USA to help the All Blacks Sevens see out a 31-12 win.
The two-time RWC Sevens winner bowed out having played 233 Series matches, winning the title five times.
New Zealand Rugby General Manager of Professional Rugby and Performance, Chris Lendrum said: “Kurt is a phenomenal player whose contribution to the All Blacks Sevens during his tenure has been outstanding.
“The success Kurt has had in the black jersey is credit to his work ethic and dedication to the game. We wish him well for his future endeavours beyond the sevens.”