It is imperative for the All Blacks Sevens to win their pool this weekend in Singapore if they have aspirations to at least crack the Cup semifinals and start inching their way up the World Series table.
New Zealand are still in fourth place overall, 16 points behind England, on whom they have had the wood in recent tournaments. But a fifth place finish in Hong Kong again felt like so near, yet so far, after pushing eventual Cup finalists Fiji and South Africa close.
Now they have a prime chance, as top seeds, to win Pool D ahead of USA and thus meet, more than likely, Canada in the Cup quarters. Failure to beat USA could mean a far tougher Cup quarter against Fiji, so the pressure will be intense on day one.
New Zealand have posted consistent results amid inconsistent performances, and have yet to reach a Cup final. But they now have a two-pronged pace attack in Joe Ravouvou and Regan Ware which should reap benefits.
There is good and bad personnel news. Tom Mikkelson's shoulder injury from game one in Hong Kong has ruled him out, while captain Scott Curry is missing this event due to a wedding. He was ruled out of the Hong Kong tournament with the flu. Knee injuries have also scratched Dylan Collier and Isaac Te Tamaki. Therefore we have a new-look squad with some old faces returning to the fold. Ironman DJ Forbes will again act as skipper.
Joe Webber returns for his 26th tournament for New Zealand, and first since the Rio Olympics. Lewis Ormond and Teddy Stanaway come back in as the 13th and 14th men.
"We picked up a few injuries in Hong Kong but the good thing is we had a few guys already in Hong Kong playing in the 10s event who are now able to come into the sevens team,' says coach Scott Waldrom.
"It is great to welcome back experienced players like Joe, Teddy and Lewis who have previously played for New Zealand. And it's great to have Tone (Ng Shiu) back again, as he has been in our environment all year.
"Our focus for Singapore is bringing a new level of consistency. We came close against series leaders Fiji and South Africa in Hong Kong and we beat England. There were some encouraging moments in Hong Kong that we want to repeat this weekend but we know we must beat all these teams to take out a tournament."
The event will be played under the roof at the Singapore National Stadium, and Waldrom says it is much cooler inside than it is outside where the humidity is stifling.
South Africa still lead the World Series standings by 23 points and could just about wrap up the overall title with a fifth Cup victory of the season. Fiji won in Hong Kong and will contend, while USA and Australia are making good progress up the table. Gordon Tietjens' Samoan team languish in 13th position. The final two tournaments are in Paris and London next month.
Saturday April 15
5.14pm NZT v Scotland
8.12pm NZT v Wales
12.50am (Sunday) NZT v USA
Sunday April 16
The team is:
DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau, c), Sam Dickson (Canterbury), Iopu Iopu-Aso (Taranaki), Trael Joass (Tasman), Andrew Knewstubb (Tasman), Vilimoni Koroi (Otago), Sione Molia (Counties Manukau), Tone Ng Shiu (Tasman), Joe Ravouvou (Auckland), Beaudein Waaka (Taranaki), Regan Ware (Bay of Plenty), Joe Webber (Bay of Plenty)
13th man: Lewis Ormond (Taranaki) Travelling reserve: Teddy Stanaway (Bay of Plenty)