Preview: Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens

Date published: December 13 2014

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Round three of the 2014/15 World Sevens Series, The Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens, will be played at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth this weekend.

Rugby fever is running high in Port Elizabeth, and there will be plenty of support for the Blitzbokke on home soil.

South Africa head into the competition brimming with confidence as the defending champions and are currently in second spot on the World Series log after two rounds.

Fiji lead the standings on 39 points, two more than South Africa with Australia third on 29 points and defending Series champions New Zealand fourth on 28 points.

The final squads of 12 have been declared by the 16 international coaches and Neil Powell has named an unchaged side from his victorious Blitzbokke team that won in Dubai, while Fiji, Portugal, Scotland, USA and New Zealand also make no changes from the teams that competed last weekened.

England have made three changes with Sam Stanley, Mark Bright and Alex Davis coming in for Dan Bibby, Charlie Hayter and Sam Blanchet.

Santiago Cordero, who impressed on Australia’s Gold Coast, returns for Argentina in place of Joaquin Paz, Australia’s Michael Wells comes in for the injured Greg Jeloudev and Steeve Barry is named ahead of Stephen Parez for France.

Les Bleus are the most experienced of all sides with 284 events between them, while the only non-core side Zimbabwe have three players set to make their World Series debuts.

Here we look at seven players we believe you should look out for this weekend.

Cecil Afrika, South Africa: The defending champions are back on home soil after a near-perfect tournament in Dubai and looking to lift to another level. Expect to see plenty of Cecil Afrika as he chases just 11 more points to pass Fabian Juries (925) and become the Blitzboks’ highest points-scorer in the World Sevens Series.

Pama Fou, Australia: Made his debut back in 2011 but has really started to come of age under the tutelage of Geraint John. Showed tremendous speed and athleticism as a crucial weapon in Australia’s march to the Cup final in Dubai. Missed last year’s series with injury but won’t be missing from too many highlight reels if his form continues.

Mark Robertson, Scotland: One of his team’s best in Dubai, created opportunities every time he had his hands on the ball. The 29-year-old possesses a great turn of speed, amassing 54 tries in 31 appearances for his country.

Tim Mikkelson, New Zealand: At 103kg wing, Tim Mikkelson is a force to be reckoned with. The former sevens player of the year continues to impress and was named in the dream team in Dubai. Knows how to find the line and will need to do it often for the All Blacks Sevens if they are to pick up their first title of the series.

Pedro Leal, Portugal: A quick search of YouTube and you’ll soon come up with a couple of gems from the diminutive Portuguese star. A prolific points-scorer, Leal has 1,044 points, including 82 tries, from his 48 caps, defying his team’s standing in sevens rugby and will be looking to continue his form this weekend.

Semi Kunatani, Fiji: May have been watched for all the wrong reasons since his much-publicised failed effort at the Gold Coast Sevens when, in an all too casual stroll to the line for a certain try, and after skirting around the Scotland defence moments earlier, was pulled up short. Still, finds himself equal second on the series try scoring list with 10, just two short of South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla, and one of the top tacklers already. Sure to add to both tallies again this weekend.

Frankie Horne, South Africa: Sevens is not just all about speed, sometimes it’s what happens off the ball or before the line break that is just as important. Enter Frankie Horne, who will become the only player in the history of the World Sevens Series to play 62 consecutive tournaments. Did we mention he’s also scored 55 tries in his 61 appearances and set up two for Kwagga Smith in the semi-final against New Zealand quite remarkably.

Pools for Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens:

Pool A: South Africa, USA, Wales, Kenya
Pool B: Australia, Argentina, Portugal, Zimbabwe
Pool C: Fiji, Scotland, France, Canada
Pool D: New Zealand, Samoa, England, Japan

Day One schedule – Saturday, December 13:

(Local kick-off times – GMT + 2 hours)
Match 1: Fiji v France – 11.58
Match 2: England v Japan – 12.20
Match 3: South Africa v USA – 12.42
Match 4: Wales v Kenya – 13.04
Match 5: Fiji v Canada – 13.46
Match 6: Scotland v France – 14.08
Match 7: Australia v Zimbabwe – 14.30
Match 8: Argentina v Portugal – 14.32
Match 9: New Zealand v Japan – 15.14
Match 10: England v Samoa – 15.36
Match 11: South Africa v Kenya – 15.58
Match 12: Wales v USA – 16.20
Match 13: France v Canada – 17.04
Match 14: Fiji v Scotland – 17.26
Match 15: Portugal v Zimbabwe – 17.48
Match 16: Australia v Argentina – 18.10
Match 17: Samoa v Japan – 18.52
Match 18: New Zealand v England – 19.14
Match 19: USA v Kenya – 19.36
Match 20: South Africa v Wales – 19.58

With thanks to World Rugby

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