Battle for the top four spots

Fiji Airways Fiji 7s players Jerry Tuwai and Teri Tamani arriving at the teams hotel after their training session in Las Vegas, Nevada in the USA. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

WHILE it’s a close race to the top of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, former coach Ben Ryan is certain that New Zealand and Fiji will certainly be in the top four placings.

However, he believes USA and South Africa could be  in the list as well.

“England and Australia to just miss out although England has the advantage of having done the long trips and they could certainly make a push for top
four,” Ryan said.

“I could only say with certainty that Fiji and NZ  will be in top four come the end of the series.”

Fiji and New Zealand have each won two tournaments this series but the latter is currently leading the series with USA at 76 points each.

Following the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Ryan said the standard of the competition had dropped a bit but has changed his opinion this year.

“I think the standard is great this year and lots of competition across the board,” Ryan said.

“It’s natural that some countries programs drop or climb a bit and we have seen that off field stuff with Canada and Kenya for example… has really interrupted their ability to prepare their teams.

“Before the Rio games we saw XVs players dropping into various teams and that’s yet to happen but I hope it does next season as it added a lot of excitement and interest for everyone.”

Canada and Kenya who regularly used to make cup playoff have not been on top of their game this season.

For the financially strapped Kenya, their government just announced last Friday it was going to pump funds into the team.

Senior players of the Canadian sevens squad had refused to attend training towards the end of last year in protest of the reorganisation of Canada Rugby where there was just one big squad for sevens and XVs.

This was also due to financial reasons.

“At the top, it’s generally the same teams but South are not the powerhouse they have been the last two years and lacking the size to compete regularly with Fiji and NZ at the moment,” Ryan said.

“They are still playing well but to their standards, I’m sure they will be disappointed. Their program is excellent so they will rise up again I’m sure.”

Ryan added it would be interesting to see whether USA would be able to hang on to the four spot. South Africa on the other hand had also lost players like Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith and Rosko Speckman.

“It’s not surprising they (South Africa) have not performed as they would have liked. USA had a great first tournament and it set them up really well seeding wise for the next three. They have a nice blend and playing well. Two North American legs next will show us if they are serious contenders or not,” Ryan added.

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