Following Fiji’s victory over England at the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai, the second round comes around thick and fast with the HSBC Cape Town Sevens taking place this weekend.
Having moved from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town for the new-look 10 round series, the players descended into Cape Town on a direct flight from Dubai ready to compete for the second Cup title of the season and continue their road to Rio.
With only days left before the tournament begins at the 55,000-seater Cape Town Stadium, sold out on both 12 and 13 December, the 16 captains gathered at Signal Hill in front of Table Mountain to launch the tournament in picturesque style.
Fiji sit on top of the standings, with England, USA and New Zealand completing the top four and heading the respective pools. Hosts and defending champions South Africa, who won the Plate in Dubai and will compete against fellow African countries Kenya and Zimbabwe, and England, in Pool B on day one.
Tom Mitchell, who captained England to second place in Dubai and was named in the Dubai dream team, alongside team-mate Phil Burgress, having returned from injury in excellent form, was at the launch and is expecting a very physical challenge to open the weekeend.
“No doubt it’s going to be a very physical first day for us with three tough opponents,” said Mitchell. “I think the third game will be the highlight for the crowd, obviously playing South Africa at home is a huge opportunity to experience here in Cape Town.
“A lot of the challenge of the second week is to get your bodies into a good state going into the second weekend. It’s also important to get a bit of down time in the second week, so we will be looking to get that balance right. We want to improve a few things going into this weekend, nothing too specific, just a little bit of our top standards in terms of the rugby we played.”
With week two offering something different for all the teams, in England’s case they have a lot of positives to take from Dubai and Mitchell was in a reflective mood when asked about their performance.
“It [Dubai] was an amazing experience and the guys did well to get to the final,” added Mitchell. “We had some really close games against some very tough opposition so it was really pleasing to get to that stage. We’re really pleased with the way the guys battled to the end but in the end it wasn’t quite enough.
“There were about three to four minutes in the final that let us down against a very good Fijian side and fair play to them they played some outstanding rugby across the weekend and we just fell short.
“It’s always good to start well, especially after such a long pre-season. I think we have got steps forward that we can take in terms of our performances and the rugby we played, but I think the guys have got their heads around it and our attitude going into the weekend was spot on, so we will look to build on that going into Cape Town this weekend.”
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