Bl­itzboks, Fiji at full strength for Ve­gas 7s

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LOS AN­GE­LES: World Rugby Sevens Se­ries lead­ers South Africa and two-time de­fend­ing se­ries cham­pion Fiji wel­come back top play­ers for the USA Sevens tour­na­ment that be­gins to­day in Las Ve­gas.

The Bl­itzboks top the table with 85 points af­ter wins in Welling­ton and Syd­ney plus the sea­son-opener at Dubai but lost the Cape Town fi­nal to Eng­land, who are sec­ond on 68, four points ahead of Fiji in third.

Af­ter a 36-hour trek from South Africa to Ne­vada by way of Lon­don, Bl­itzboks coach Neil Pow­ell was pleased with his lineup’s fit­ness as train­ing re­sumed for Ve­gas and next week’s sixth leg in Van­cou­ver, Canada.

“I am happy where we are with our prepa­ra­tions and will take it slow at the be­gin­ning,” Pow­ell said.

South Africa wel­come back flyer Werner Kok, the 2015 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, and play­maker Ce­cil Afrika.

Kok, who helped South Africa to a 2014 Ve­gas ti­tle, was hurt for last year’s Ve­gas trip and missed most of the Syd­ney vic­tory run last month with a calf strain.

“It is never nice to miss out on a tour­na­ment, but luck­ily that nig­gle is sorted out and I am feel­ing fresh and ready to go,” Kok said. “Now we need to get onto the field and I am look­ing for­ward to that... I have very good mem­o­ries.”

Afrika, South Africa’s top scorer with 1,167 points over 47 tour­na­ments and the 2011 World Sevens Player of the Year, is back at full fit­ness af­ter miss­ing the trans-Tas­man twin ti­tles.

South Africa, seek­ing a first over­all crown since 2009, will face Wales, France and Canada in Pool A.

Pool B fea­tures Eng­land, Samoa, Chile and the US while Pool C has New Zealand, Ar­gentina, Rus­sia and Kenya. Pool D con­tains Fiji, Aus­tralia, Ja­pan and Scot­land.

Fiji, the USA Sevens champions in 2015 and 2016 on the way to the over­all se­ries crowns, made three changes from the Welling­ton-Syd­ney lineup for the North Amer­i­can events, adding 2016 Rio Olympic gold medal­lists Ma­sivesi Dakuwaqa and Api­sai Do­mo­lailai and for­mer na­tional sevens winger Waisea Nacuqu.

Eng­land of­fer an un­changed lineup from the Syd­ney run­nerup squad.

The USA Ea­gles will be with­out speedy Car­lin Isles, who will miss the re­main­der of the se­ries as he un­der­goes knee surgery. AFP

South Africa wel­come back flyer Werner Kok to the squad.

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