First five: The Wellington Sevens contenders

By Matiu Workman

DJ Forbes of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.
DJ Forbes of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.

Who are the teams to watch at this year's Wellington Sevens? Matiu Workman profiles the top five contenders for this weekend.

South Africa: 78 points, 1st
Coach: Neil Powell
Captain: Kyle Brown
World Series titles: 1
World championship wins: 0
Tournament wins: 18

Goal: Coach Neil Powell has set a tough benchmark for his side - advancing to the semi-finals of each of the nine events, something the team has never done.
Form: South Africa enter the Wellington leg in a rich vein of form. Two consecutive tournament victories, both against New Zealand, has seen them lead at the halfway mark of a series for the first time since 2009.
Missing in Action: The series leaders will be without wings Seabelo Senatla and Rosko Specman after both suffered ankle injuries in Las Vegas. They will be replaced by Jamba Ulengo and Kwagga Smith.
By the numbers: They shouldn't feel daunted. Unlike most teams, South Africa hold a good winning record against New Zealand. Seven of their 10 tournament wins have come against New Zealand while they have won the last five over the defending champions.

See also:
Seven at the Sevens: Ones to watch
Seven at the Sevens: Reasons to watch
Wellington Sevens: What you need to know

New Zealand: 77 points, 2nd
Coach: Sir Gordon Tietjens
Captain: DJ Forbes
World Series titles: 11
World championships: 2
Tournament wins: 47

Goal: Sir Gordon Tietjens' gameplan that mixes the fearlessness of youth and the levelled heads that come with experience has seen his side achieve a consistency other teams dream of.
Form: Three finals in four events isn't a bad start to the season for the defending champions, but they'll be wary that their last two finals defeats have been at the hands of South Africa.
Missing in Action: New Zealand lost Sherwin Stowers and Akira Ioane ahead of the Las Vegas tournament, but thankfully for home fans the 18-year-old Ponsonby product returns to the mix for the Wellington leg. One player who will miss the tournament is Sam Dickson after he was suspended for nine matches during the Las Vegas Sevens tournament.
By the numbers: New Zealand need just three more tournament wins to register an incredible 50 tournament victories since the first series started in 1999. Their run of 47 consecutive wins in the 2007-08 series, picking up five titles in the process, is still a Sevens World Series record.

Fiji: 56 points, 3rd
Coach: Ben Ryan
Captain: Osea Kolinisau
World Series titles: 1
World championships: 2
Tournament wins: 22

Goal: Nothing less than an appearance in the final will help a Fijian side already battling after a $1.9 million development grant from the IRB was cut due to supposed government interference in January.
Form: Coach Ben Ryan has already secured one title with the Fijians. The Pacific Islanders captured their maiden Dubai Sevens title, humiliating New Zealand 44-0 en route to the final nonetheless. But finishing third in a pool that included New Zealand and Australia at the Las Vegas Sevens condemned Fiji to the bowl final, where they beat Kenya 35-0.
Missing in Action: Fiji has a full squad to choose from, unlike in previous years where New Zealand had imposed travel sanctions on any player with a military background due to the 2006 coup.
By the numbers: Fiji occupy the top two tryscorers for the 2013-14 series, scoring 38 tries between the two of them. Samisoni Viriviri (20 tries) and Benito Masilevu (18) have set the Sevens field alight and will find themselves at home amongst a warm expat community in Wellington. Viriviri is one of two Fijian players to notch 100 points for the season, with Emosi Mulevoro (105 points) the other.

England: 53 points, 4th
Coach: Simon Amor
Captain: Tom Mitchell
World Series titles: 0
World championships: 1
Tournament wins: 16

Goal: Already trailing series leaders South Africa by 25 points means England will be aiming to become only the second team to win to post consecutive tournament victories in Wellington.
Form: Semi-finalists in the opening two rounds, England has since registered 21 points from its last two rounds to sit three points behind Fiji.
Missing in Action: Mike Ellery made a successful return for England in Las Vegas and should feature for the defending champions in the capital.
By the numbers: England tasted early success at the 1993 Rugby World Cup Sevens. They were the inaugural victors of the championship but have not won another. Despite four seasons where they won multiple titles, England is yet to win a world series.

Samoa: 47 points, 5th
Coach: Viliamu Punivalu
Captain: Reupena Levasa
World Series titles: 1
World championships: 0
Tournament wins: 9

Goal: A number of injured players means Samoa will be looking to target a spot in the semi-finals of arguably their home tournament.
Form: Samoa played a big part in Canada's best-ever finish at the Las Vegas Sevens. The Pacific Islanders should have wrapped up the match when they were up 12-0 at half-time in the third place playoff, but were instead overtaken 22-19 by Canada courtesy of a penalty after full-time.
Missing in Action: Sani Niue is unavailable for the first five games of the Wellington tournament through suspension. Lole Tualaulelei replaces the injured Tom Iosefo while Patrick Faapale replaces Niue.
By the numbers: Despite picking up 32 points in the last tournaments - the third-highest behind South Africa and New Zealand - Samoa has a winning percentage of less than 50 percent from their last 30 games. The Pacific heavyweights hold a 14-16 record, the same as Kenya and Wales.

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