The weather is extremely sunny this morning at the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens 2010, as the usual suspects appear in the top eight in contention for the Cup. Australia, England, Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand made the top eight with relative ease, and find themselves in the quarter finals of the revamped format, which sees the losers of the quarterfinals head to the plate semi-finals.
The first quarterfinal matchup is a rematch of the finals in Adelaide, with the USA Eagles facing Samoa. Samoa have looked rather workman-like in their games against Argentina, Russia, and Italy in their pool games, scoring around 20 points per game, with the exception of a 40–12 win over Italy.
The USA, after their sluggish win over Portugal on Day One, scored at will against Thailand, and looked good in parts in the 38-12 defeat to Fiji. It will be interesting to see which team gets in gear first, as the Samoans are extremely hard to stop once they get their engines going. The USA Eagles will need to come together more in team play, for Captain Kevin Swiryn can only do so much.
Old enemies England and Australia face each other in the second quarterfinal. Australia have a very young side in Hong Kong, and it shows. They conceded 12 points to the Chinese in their opening game, and that seemed to stir them into action. They handled the likes of Canada and Tonga pretty easily, but were not rally-tested.
England, on the other hand, is looking like the prime favourites for the title this year. The evergreen Ben Gollings seems to be pulling all the right strings with this team, and one would expect England to win comfortably into the Semi finals. They defeated the Welsh pretty comfortably, and look for the pace of Josh Drauniniu to challenge the Aussies.
Fiji versus South Africa is the next quarterfinal, and a sure cracker this will be. The Fijians have looked their trademark self in the early stages of the tournament. Old stalwart Waisele Beci is controlling the team well, with flyers in all position.
Paul Treu’s South Africa have not had a good IRB season so far, but really there is no other team on the circuit that works as hard as the South Africans. Cecil Afrika is looking matured and composed for his first tour, and look for the slipstream Ryo Benjamin to provide the firepower in the South African Sevens team.
Last year, Kenya defeated New Zealand in Hong Kong at the same stage of the tournament, making this year's rematch heated. The Kenyans have grown from strength to strength, and mow are really one of the teams to watch in the world sevens game.
New Zealand look strong and composed, but you really have to ask where the pace is in Gordon Teijien’s side. The Kiwis will look to win this and get to the semi finals, but this match will be one to watch.