Dubai success could be a sign of things to come

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    05 Dec 2018     Getty Images

Cape Argus rugby writer Wynona Louw said in the last three years the winner of the opening Dubai Sevens tournament had gone on to win the World title. In 2015-16 it was Fiji and in the next two years it was South Africa who had achieved the feat.

Louw asked if 2018-19 would be New Zealand's year?

"It's way too early to make any kind of predictions, of course, but given the way the New Zealanders have reaffirmed themselves of late, one cannot help but have a proper look at the record 12-time Series winners' progress.

"For the past four years, New Zealand fans have had to become used to their team bagging a tournament win here and there, and draws against the likes of Portugal and Canada and a loss to Japan at the Rio Olympics (where they finished fifth) didn't doo a helluva lot to instill belief."

Last weekend New Zealand won the Dubai round for the first time since 2009.

Before that they had won both the Commonwealth Games gold medal and the World Cup Sevens.

The World Series hasn't been in New Zealand hands since 2013-14 and their best performances have been two third placings.

Louw asked what was behind the revival?

"New Zealand Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw has done a lot of things differently in his first year in charge.

"Centralisation and the use of Sevens specialists are two things that contributed to their Commonwealth and World Cup glory.

"The struggle to keep things consistent in terms of playing personnel was a struggle in the past, with players drifting in and out of the Sevens set-up to fulfil 15s commitments.

"Sevens no longer seems like an afterthought over there. Things are starting to come together. But is it enough?" she asked.

The Cape Town event may provide a partial answer when the two teams meet in their pool game, the last game of the day on Sunday at 6.56am (NZT).

Their earlier games are against Zimbabwe at 11.49pm on Saturday and Samoa at 3.10am on Sunday.

New Zealand will be below-strength as they have had to call up reinforcements after a swathe of injuries before, and during, the Dubai tournament. Co-captain Scott Curry, Kurt Baker, Akuila Rokolisoa and Sam Dickson have returned to New Zealand while Jona Nareki and Regan Ware have travelled to South Africa in the hope they will have recovered from their injuries. Trael Joass, Etene Nanai-Seturo and Taylor Haugh have flown to South Africa from New Zealand this week.