Sevens: New Zealand hoping to relive glory days in Hong Kong

By Campbell Burnes

The last time New Zealand won at the Hong Kong Sevens, in 2014. Photo / Getty
The last time New Zealand won at the Hong Kong Sevens, in 2014. Photo / Getty

There used to be real mystique attached to the Hong Kong Sevens.

After more than 40 years, that lustre may have dimmed somewhat, but this is still an iconic tournament in which New Zealand has historically performed well.

The last Cup final victory for the All Black Sevens came in 2014 following a win in the teeming rain against England. The image of the topless team haka under the rains on that night is a memorable one. From that side remain captain Scott Curry, DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson.

New Zealand fell to Fiji in the 2015-16 Cup finals, and they would love to again contest the decider after a middling 2016-17 World Series campaign in which too often glimpses of classic sevens have been punctuated by errors, both handling and tactical.

They placed fifth in Vancouver last month, dropping just one of their six games, yet they were fourth in Las Vegas, despite dropping three games.

They are fourth overall and desperate to challenge Fiji and England in the podium places.

But their chances are boosted for Hong Kong, despite the omission of Sherwin Stowers. Regan Ware returns after missing the March tournaments, while Auckland flyer Joe Ravouvou, who, crucially, has size and pace, will debut after acting as injury cover for the Chiefs earlier in the year. That duo will be able to complement the playmaking talents of Vilimoni Koroi and the work-rate of Forbes and Trael Joass, who is making good strides for this side.

It is imperative that New Zealand top Pool C, which will mean beating Fiji, as the alternative route of coming second means they will surely meet a roadblock in the form of series leaders South Africa, who have four of the six events, in the Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

As ever, Hong Kong offers a unique format of one pool match tomorrow night (Wales) and then two on Saturday (Japan and Fiji) before building up to three matches on finals day.

"It's a cool tournament to be part of. I like the fact you have one game on Friday night. It makes the second day a bit easier just having two games," says Curry.

"It's a pretty tough pool. Wales have been playing well, Japan are a bit of an unknown and obviously they were tough at the Olympics and got over the top of us, and Fiji is the old rivalry."

Some of the fringe New Zealand squad members, Tone Ng Shiu, Lewis Ormond, Teddy Stanaway and Joe Webber played the 10s tournament in Hong Kong this week to gain some much-needed match practice and may be required for next weekend's Singapore tournament.

England's Dan Norton is set to become the series' leading all-time tryscorer. His first try in Hong Kong will take him to 245, which will overtake Collins Injera of Kenya.

All Blacks Sevens in Hong Kong:
Friday April 7
11.32pm NZT v Wales
Saturday April 8
4.50pm NZT v Japan
9.12pm NZT v Fiji
Sunday April 9
Finals day

- NZ Herald

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