SHORTER SEVENS TOURNAMENTS JUST DON’T WORK
WORLD Rugby really missed the ball with their decision to shorten the Hamilton and Sydney legs of the World Sevens Series.
Last year it was announced that the tournaments in New Zealand and Australia would be truncated, with the quarter-final stage removed to keep these events to two-day tournaments while accommodating the women’s competition. This means that only the top team in each pool progresses to the semi-finals.
That’s great and all. It’s good that women are given the chance to perform on the circuit, but it shouldn’t come at the expensive of the quality of the tournament. And after the weekend, I can’t help but feel that is exactly the case.
Sure, the Blitzboks’ disappointing 10th-place finish cannot solely be blamed on the shortened event but it also went to show how brutal the system is.
Brutal can be good, it can certainly add to the excitement. But in a game like Sevens, where one mistake can literally, and easily, cost you a game. Brutal excitement shouldn’t be a goal, there is enough of that.
With the other tournaments, teams are allowed to get into the swing of things without having to worry that dropping a single game will send them packing. Now that’s exactly the case. And it doesn’t work.
Yes, it’s up to the players to get their heads right and switch on right from the start, but such changes – in an Olympic year no less – cannot be what’s best for the game. Teams spend four years preparing for this, and to have it possibly influenced by something like this is questionable, to say the least.
Also, seeing the Blitzboks and Fiji, two giants of the game, face off in the ninth-place playoff said something. Sure, their poor performances weren’t the fault of the tournament structure, but it certainly showed what can happen.
New Zealand, for example, who went on to win their home event, also dropped a game in the pool stages, but the fact that no other team in their group were undefeated saved them and they ended up going through to the semis on points difference.
The quality of the tournament is definitely affected. And it’s hard to believe that World Rugby had no other choice but to take such a drastic decision.
Player welfare is apparently the reason for the change. But would playing a three-day tournament, in Sevens, really be so detrimental to that welfare? An extra day on which only one game would probably be played? I don’t buy it.
Again, accommodating women is definitely not something that can be faulted but how will these truncated tournaments affect the game? And by that I’m not just talking about public interest (although comment sections and fan pages have made people’s feelings about these changes perfectly clear).
It just doesn’t work.