All Blacks Sevens aim to go one better in Cape Town

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New Zealand were held scoreless by South Africa in last weekend's final in the series opener in Dubai. They start their Cape Town bid against Wales at 6.05am on Saturday.

 

They then play Canada at 12.07am on Sunday and Argentina at 6.05am on Sunday.

 

All Blacks Sevens co-captain Tim Mikkelson said: "We were pretty pleased with our performance in Dubai with it being the first one of the year and making the final.

 

"We are a bit disappointed not to go one more but the beautiful thing about sevens is that you always get another week to right the wrongs," Mikkelson said.

 

South Africa coach Neil Powell already has the Dubai title under his belt and is looking to make an impact on home turf.

 

"We certainly played better as the tournament progressed, but this weekend we will start at zero again.

 

"The players realise that last week's performance will not mean anything this week. We are playing three very capable opponents and will have to be at our very best just to get out of our pool.

 

"Japan is a difficult opponent to start against and Fiji and the United States were the top two teams in last year's series," he said.

 

Blockbusting forward Zain Davids was a key performer for South Africa in Dubai. He missed the last stages of the 2018-19 season due to a shoulder injury suffered in training for the Hong Kong Sevens.

 

But in scoring a crucial try against Samoa in Dubai he demonstrated he was back to his best and he is looking to make the most of being involved in Cape Town where he is likely to make his 100th appearance for the Blitzbok.

 

"It's always good to be back from injury with a team like this, because the spirit is high and you just want to be there.

 

"They are supportive of you, and you just want to play and give it your all.

 

"I was out for about four months, and it is physically and mentally tough. You are alone and it is off-season for the other players, so you are alone in the gym, doing rehab. So, you have to do what it takes to get to the top, and play hard," he told iol.co.za.

 

In the women's section of the sevens, South Africa will make their first appearance on home soil as an invitation side.

 

They face a tough game first up. They play Dubai winners and last season's series winners New Zealand at 2.50am on Saturday. They will face Fiji at 9.35pm on Saturday and Russia at 3.25am on Sunday.

 

South Africa captain Zintle Mpupha said, "This is new to us, being at home, and we are all terribly excited and nervous. We know two things – this group will play with massive heart and we will not give up.

 

"We realise the pace will be faster, the hits will be harder and the split-seconds will be even less. But knowing that we will be playing in our stadium, in front of our crowd, with our emblem and flag on the jersey, will give us massive energy and encouragement," she said.

 

Tyla Nathan-Wong, who was named the Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year at the New Zealand Rugby awards on Thursday, will lead the side again. New Zealand have made two changes to their side with Youth Olympic gold medalists Risi Pouri-Lane and Mahina Paul, on debut, called in.

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