Rugby Sevens moves to New Zealand as South Africa, Kenya lie in wait
05 February 2014, 11:25
Wellington - New Zealand hope to use home advantage to regain top spot when the IRB World Sevens roadshow rolls into Wellington this week.
The reigning champions, who claimed a record series 11th title last year, head to their capital on 77 points, one behind South Africa, who have won two of the four competition rounds held this season.
New Zealand have only one tournament win to their credit, the opening round in Australia, and will be desperate to succeed in front of their home crowd after suffering a shock loss to Kenya here in last year's semi-finals.
"The timing is perfect to come home," New Zealand captain DJ Forbes said. "We've been in a few finals and tripped up so hopefully on home soil we can knuckle down and get the job done."
He said the New Zealanders, who are used to dominating the standings, were desperate to overhaul the South African "blitzbokke".
"It certainly adds another dynamic to things," Forbes said. "Hopefully the boys can look at it as a bit of motivation that they're chasing a new leader, rather having our heels chased."
First they will have to negotiate a tough pool including France, Spain and Fiji, who handed the Kiwis a 44-0 thumping -- their worst ever sevens loss -- on the way to winning the Dubai leg of the series.
South Africa's pool comprises England, who won the Wellington tournament last year, Wales and Portugal.
Australia face Pacific powerhouses Tonga and Samoa along with a Kenyan team looking to repeat the giant-killing feats of last year, when the Africans finished runners-up in the feel-good story of the tournament.
Australian coach Michael O'Connor said his young side was beginning to gel.
"We have a realistic chance in Wellington to make a statement and get into that top four... we have a side that has genuine potential and our combinations are really starting to bear fruit," he said.
The final pool is made up of Scotland, Argentina, Canada and the United States.
Pool matches are played on Friday, with sudden-death games contested Saturday.
Each side plays its three pool opponents once, with pool winners and runners-up advancing to the Cup quarter-finals on Sunday, when there will also be Plate, Bowl and Shield silverware up for grabs.