-All 40 international team captains lined up in front of majestic Table Mountain in Cape Town on Wednesday as excitement reaches fever pitch ahead of the highly anticipated Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022, which takes place from 9-11 September at Cape Town Stadium.
With an anticipated record-breaking crowd of more than 150,000 fans set to create an unforgettable atmosphere in an iconic venue, Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 aims to set new standards in innovation, fan-engagement and sporting excitement to reinforce rugby sevens as one of the fastest growing Olympic sports and continue to attract new fans from an increasing global audience.
The unique ‘winner takes all’ knock-out competition format first introduced at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco means every match counts as teams will need to win every time they enter the pitch in order to become world champions.
The 24-team men’s competition kicks off the action on day one with a qualification round involving teams seeded from nine to 24. The winners of the qualification round will progress to the round of 16 where they will take on the top eight seeded teams, while the losers will go into the Bowl competition which will decide positions 17 to 24.
There will be some hard fought matches in the qualification round as ninth seeds Ireland, who have been in outstanding form on the World Series this year, play Portugal, who overcame core Series team Spain in the European qualifier to claim their place in Cape Town.
Germany and Chile who have both impressed as invitational teams on the World Series come face-to-face in the qualification round where fireworks can be expected with survival at stake.
Hosts South Africa are top seeds in men’s tournament following a remarkable 36-match winning streak which saw them win six rounds of the World Series in a row across 2021-2022. However they will face stiff competition with Australia seeded second and double Olympic champions Fiji seeded third. New Zealand are the reigning men’s champions and are seeded fifth coming in to the event.
The 16-team women’s tournament also begins on Friday with the round of 16 knock out matches based on seedings on the first day of competition, meaning fans will be kept on the edge of their seats from the very first kick to the last.
Women’s Olympic champions and reigning RWC Sevens winners New Zealand play Colombia, top seeds Australia take on debutants Madagascar, and hosts South Africa face Olympic silver medallists France.
Women’s teams qualified either via finishing in the top four at the last RWC Sevens in 2018, and through regional qualification tournaments. Men’s teams qualified by finishing in the top eight at the last RWC Sevens in 2018, and via regional qualification tournaments. Madagascar and Poland women are making their Rugby World Cup Sevens debuts.
The seedings for both men’s and women’s competitions were based on points accrued during the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2020 and 2022, while teams who do not participate on the Series were seeded using their rankings gained at World Rugby Sevens events and regional ranking positions ending in July 2022.
The eighth men’s and fourth women’s edition of Rugby World Cup Sevens represents the first Rugby World Cup of any kind since the famous 1995 Rugby World Cup when South Africa were victorious on home soil as President Nelson Mandela handed the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar to inspire the Rainbow Nation.
Siviwe Soyizwapi, captain of South Africa men said: “For us as a team we’re just chasing perfection. This is a standalone tournament, a massive tournament in front of our home crowd and we’re really excited for that.
“The fact that it is a knockout tournament doesn’t change the mindset for us. We are focused on getting the perfect game and we focus on ourselves as a team and the standards that we uphold. We are chasing that perfect game from game one.
“To be double would champions [alongside South Africa Men XV] would be massive. It would be great for the nation. We all know what rugby can do for our country. This our first home sevens rugby since 2019 here in Cape Town so as players and a team, the whole system is excited to run out there this weekend and represent our country. We know how the crowd can get behind us and the fans will really make this tournament. As a team we are really excited.”
Sarah Hirini, captain of New Zealand women said: “I’m really excited as it is my first time here in Cape Town and for a Rugby World Cup too, it is a pretty cool place to play. I know there are a lot of kiwi supporters in Cape Town so we’re looking forward to the fans coming out and cheering us on.
“Competing in Rugby World Cup Sevens means a lot. Watching it and you see how this tournament is the pinnacle for so many rugby players and you can see that in the way the game will be played at the weekend. I’m really looking forward to how special this is going to be this weekend
“With the knock out competition it can be hard to look beyond the next game but we hope we’ll do well. When you come to a pinnacle event you want to go all the way, we’ve done that a few times and it was pretty special for New Zealand.”
Australia’s men arrive in Cape Town full of confidence having claimed the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 title in Los Angeles last month, captain Nick Malouf said: “Cape Town is a magical city and this is one of the pinnacles of our game, the Rugby World Cup with so much history. It’s going to be a super exciting weekend.
“It will be a fantastic competition for the spectators, there are so many good teams here. Plus it’s a really interesting and exciting knockout format. You can’t really keep anything in the locker, you’ve got to fire all your shots from the start. I’m expecting lots of good games of rugby.
“There is no more expectation here than what we put on ourselves as a team. After the success of the World Series we really don’t want to let ourselves down with a poor performance here. We take all the confidence from doing well throughout the World Series and now it’s up to us to make sure that we go out there and get a good result.”
Sam Dickson, reigning champions New Zealand captain said: “It is great to be back in Cape Town and we have a lot of good memories from here over the years.
“We’ve won Rugby World Cup Sevens a few times over the last few years so we’ll be expecting to do exactly the same but we take it game by game. With the format of straight knock out it can be pretty ruthless so we’ve got to be on our game from the first kick off.
“It is always an honour to play in Rugby World Cup and always special to represent New Zealand in any format of rugby and wear the black jersey.”
The action kicks off at 08:45 (GMT+2) local time on Friday when Ireland and Portugal take to the pitch in the men’s competition. The women’s tournament gets under way when Australia face Madagascar at 12:11 on Friday.
Australia’s women are the top ranked team after dominating the 2022 Series and captain Demi Hayes said: “It is really cool to be in Cape Town. We’ve been here before and we know how big the crowd here is. It is really exciting to be here and we’ll make the most of the next few days leading into the competition on Friday.
“Off the back of the World Series and the Commonwealth Games, we definitely want to do well again and stay consistent. We’ve spoken about consistency the entire season and this would top off our whole season. Our group has trained so hard since the Commonwealth Games and we’re really excited to get going.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Rugby World Cup in South Africa created one of the most iconic images the game has ever known. Now for the first time since that unforgettable day in 1995, we are delighted to be staging another Rugby World Cup back in the rainbow nation as rugby sevens comes to Cape Town with 40 teams from all corners of the world in action.
“Fans can expect to see the best men’s and women’s players, playing exciting, highly skilled, fast paced rugby sevens with all the jeopardy of the knockout format, where every game counts. This weekend players and supporters will create memories that once again shape our sport for years to come.
“Since gaining Olympic status rugby sevens continues to grow and entertain new fans around the globe. Played in a full, iconic stadium with a festive atmosphere, Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 will be the perfect showcase for everything this vibrant sport has to offer.”
A world class entertainment programme and Fan Village will entertain spectators during the three day feast of rugby sevens. Rugby sevens fans around the world can watch the action via live stream on www.rwcsevens.com in countries where there is no national broadcaster covering the event.
SOURCE: WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS