The 28 captains competing at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens on 13-15 December assembled at the Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday.
This year’s tournament will be the first time that Cape Town has hosted both the men’s and women’s competitions in a season that will see the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series contested over 10 rounds, and the women’s over a record eight.
Cape Town is one of six combined men’s and women’s events this year before 24 teams will travel to Japan in July for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Following a successful Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens last weekend, where South Africa’s men and New Zealand’s women were victorious, the Cape Town event will be the second round on the men’s series and the third on the women’s.
Off the back of their win last week, South Africa captain Siviwe Soyizwapi insists that the focus is now solely on their home tournament.
“We are feeling very happy and excited but we’ve said that we will leave what happened in Dubai, in Dubai,” he said.
“We have another tournament coming this weekend so the focus will be on the recovery and getting back to 100 per cent.
“[The atmosphere] is always electric and the fans always come out each and every day, so there’s going to be a big buzz and we get goosebumps every time we run onto the field.”
New Zealand created history in Dubai by becoming the first women’s team to win back-to-back titles at 7he Sevens Stadium.
“It was a pretty special moment for us just to bounce back from that second day where we went down to France and to come out on day three and put a really good performance in over the three games and to walk away creating history in Dubai is something that we are really proud of,” said captain Tyla Nathan-Wong.
In true Cape Town style, the captains were joined on the pitch by a number of native animals from local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centres to celebrate this special moment in world series history.
As the 16th location to host a women’s event since the series began in 2012-13, Cape Town will provide South Africa’s women with their first opportunity to play in front of a home crowd as they prepare to take to the field as the invitational side.
Their captain Zintle Mpupha is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.
“Preparation has gone well over the past few weeks and we are just happy to get going and are focusing on ourselves – that’s the most important thing. The girls are very excited,” she said.
“It will be the first time for the team playing in front of a huge crowd, especially a home crowd as it’s something that has never happened to us and it means a lot to us to play in front of them. Walking out there on Friday is going to be a huge honour.”
In the men’s competition, Japan will once again join the 11 core teams as the invitational side as they continue their preparation for Tokyo 2020 after qualifying automatically as host nation.
They will face defending series and Cape Town champions Fiji, who shocked fans last weekend after failing to make the Cup quarter-finals in Dubai for the first time in the 21-year history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series round in the desert.
All men’s and women’s teams will play one pool match on Friday with the two remaining matches played on Saturday with the knockout stages bringing the curtain down on the tournament on Sunday.
The action gets underway at 14:00 local time when Olympic champions Australia take on England in the women’s competition.
-Story by World Rugby Media