The squads have been confirmed for the 16 teams competing at the hotly anticipated HSBC Canada Sevens at BC Place in Vancouver on 7-8 March.
South Africa are the defending champions after a first-ever win in Vancouver in 2019, and according to captain Stedman Gans while they are fully focused on repeating their triumph, they are also using the opportunity to build towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Gans said: “We have a few younger guys on the squad now in preparation for the Olympics and we are actually using this as a trial run for the Olympics so definitely we are using this time now as preparation for the Olympics.”
That Sevens Show lands in Vancouver!
The Miracle Comeback.@seanny202 and @KT_Ten10 catch up with @NHirayama10 on custom boots.
Sneak Peek of 24Sevens documentary EP 1 airing 12th of March#CanadaSevens #That7sShow pic.twitter.com/zn2fwYFATW
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) March 7, 2020
Following last weekend’s stunning extra time triumph over Fiji in Los Angeles, the Blitzboks captain was keen for his squad to keep their feet on the ground, “The most important thing for us will be to put the last round’s final behind us and just focus on Vancouver as its own tournament.”
New Zealand enter the sixth round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series on top of the standings, with a slender four point lead over second placed South Africa, with Fiji closing the gap in third.
All Blacks Sevens’ Sione Molia said: “It’s getting tight at the top and that’s exciting. We are in a good position and we know things can change, can go both ways but we’re just focusing on that first game. If we can start well like we did last week and carry on that momentum throughout this tournament I think we will do really well. We have awesome support here in Vancouver so we’re really looking forward to it.”
Invitational team Japan will also be looking to take the opportunity to increase their preparations ahead of hosting the 2020 Olympics. Following the sensational performances of the Brave Blossoms at Rugby World Cup 2019, the Japanese sevens team can expect huge home support at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
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Samoa and Australia will play their 1,000th matches in series history with their first outings on day two, becoming the fourth and fifth teams to reach this milestone behind New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa, while Kenya’s first win will be their 350th victory in series history.
Canada’s Pat Kay plays his 50th tournament this weekend on home soil and teammate Nathan Hirayama needs six tries to become first Canada man to score 150 on series.
South Africa’s Chris Dry and Branco du Preez need three and four tries respectively to reach the 100 series tries mark, while Pol Pla is two away from becoming the first Spaniard to score 50 tries on the series.
Play will be split across two days with all pool games taking place on Saturday before the knock-out competition begins on Sunday.
The action gets under way at BC Place at 09:00 local time (GMT-8) on Saturday when USA and Samoa take to the field in a Pool D encounter.
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South Africa line up in Pool A alongside England, Argentina and the invitational team Japan.
Pool B sees reigning Olympic Champions Fiji drawn with France, hosts Canada and Wales, who are currently occupying the relegation position and will be looking to pick up more points in the second half of the series.
Current Series leaders New Zealand are drawn in Pool C and will face Ireland, Span and Kenya, while Pool D consists of Australia, USA, Samoa and Scotland.