THE Blitzbokke were drawn in a tough pool for the Hong Kong Sevens tournament and will have to battle with HSBC Sevens World Series leaders New Zealand, current Sevens World Cup holders Wales and the USA for one of the two knockout qualifying spots in Pool B.
The official draw for round six of the World Series, to be played from 23 to 25 March at the Hong Kong Stadium, took place on Thursday evening.
In his reaction to the draw, Springbok Sevens coach, Paul Treu, said the extra points on offer in Hong Kong always gives this event an extra edge.
“All the teams will be out to raise their game in Hong Kong. It is a unique venue and has a special atmosphere and it will therefore pose a different mental approach. We are in a really tough pool. New Zealand is the Series leader and last week in (Las) Vegas they came within seconds of winning their third consecutive tournament of the season.
“Wales are the Sevens World Cup winners and have improved steadily since then. They recently showed against Fiji what they are capable of, so they will be a huge challenge for us and the USA is always very difficult because of their competitive nature.
“I’ve said a while ago that there are no more easy pool matches. The new seeding system and points on offer have changed the complexity of the Series completely, so we are fully aware that we will have to be switched on from the first whistle on day one,” said Treu.
With this hugely popular event doubling up in 2012 as the World Series core team qualifier, the renowned Hong Kong event will play host to two 12-team competitions played side by side at the 40,000-capacity venue.
One competition will feature the current 12 World Series core teams, who were drawn into three pools – A, B and C. The other competition features 12 teams from across the six IRB rugby regions, who will play for three additional core team places in the 2012/13 World Series and were drawn into pools D, E and F.
Following the draw, Pool A comprises Samoa, England, Argentina and Kenya. Pool B features Series leaders New Zealand, South Africa, Wales and the USA. Pool C features Fiji, Australia, France and Scotland.
The qualification tournament features 12 teams, including Regional champions from all six IRB regions, who will play for three additional core team places in the 2012/13 World Series. These nations were grouped based on their performances on the HSBC Sevens World Series and at other IRB Sevens events over the past two years, and drawn into pools D, E and F.
Following the draw, Pool D features Tonga, Uruguay, hosts Hong Kong and China. Pool E comprises Canada, Spain, Zimbabwe and debut team the Philippines. Pool F includes Portugal, Russia, Japan and the tournament’s second debutant, Guyana.
All core teams participating in the Cup, Plate and Bowl will receive World Series ranking points, while the top four placed teams in the qualification tournament will receive ranking points in respect of their final placing in the Shield. More significantly, the two finalists and the winner of the 3rd-4th play-off will earn core team status on the 2012/13 Series.
Currently, New Zealand tops the World Series on 92 points with Fiji just five points adrift on 87. South Africa is in third place with 76 points followed by England with 74. After winning in Las Vegas, Samoa is in fifth place with 69.
The pool draw for Hong Kong is:
Competition 1 – 2011/12 Core teams (Cup, Plate, Bowl)
Pool A: Samoa, England, Argentina, Kenya
Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Wales, United States
Pool C: Fiji, Australia, France, Scotland
Competition 2 – Core team qualifier, 2012/13 World Series
Pool D: Tonga, Uruguay, Hong Kong, China
Pool E: Canada, Spain, Zimbabwe, Philippines
Pool F: Portugal, Russia, Japan, Guyana-Sarugby.net