Sevens rugby is renowned for its party atmosphere and South Africa will undoubtedly be in a celebratory mood at Twickenham this weekend after wrapping up the Sevens World Series title in Paris.
The Blitzboks have been the standout side all year and will once again be the team to beat at HQ in the 10th and final leg of this season’s Series.
Victories in Dubai, Wellington, Sydney, Las Vegas and most recently in the Stade Jean-Bouin in the French capital ensured Neil Powell’s side were confirmed as champions for a second time with a weekend to spare.
It is the squad’s post-Paris hangover that will be their biggest obstacle.
South Africa’s level of consistency this year has been phenomenal and in nine events of the Series to date, the Blitzboks have reached the Cup final eight times.
The only blemish on their otherwise flawless record came last month in Singapore when they were beaten by Australia in the quarter-finals, but they have been nothing if not dominant in their irresistible march to the title.
The London Sevens, however, has earned a reputation for surprise results: the USA were crowned champions in 2015 and Scotland took the title 12 months ago.
With an inevitable end-of-term feeling in the air after six months on the road for the respective squads, it could easily be a weekend which refuses to slavishly follow the form book.
England haven’t lifted the trophy on home soil since 2009.
But Simon Amor’s boys have plenty to play for at HQ. The Red Rose sit second in the overall standings, three points ahead of Fiji, and the prospect of finishing in front of the reigning Olympic champions is one which should reinvigorate weary bodies and minds.
A partisan Twickenham crowd won’t do their chances any harm either.
Further down the standings sees the once all-conquering New Zealanders languishing in fourth place. The 12-time Series champions haven’t won an event this season – or even reached a Cup final – and London is their last chance to break their uncharacteristic duck and finish a disappointing campaign with a flourish.
The rest of the field is all about the dark horses of Canada, the United States and Scotland.
All three have good reason to believe they can upset the tournament’s thoroughbreds.
The Canadians were admittedly woeful in Paris last weekend but Damian McGrath’s team could be forgiven for the temporary blip after beating the USA in the Cup final of the Singapore Sevens in April; the Canucks’ historic first ever victory in the Sevens World Series.
In turn, the US side have been impressive all season and they have fond memories of Twickenham after thumping Australia in the final two years ago. The Eagles have finished sixth overall in the last two seasons but if they can cling onto the fifth place they currently occupy ahead of London, it will represent their best ever campaign.
Like Canada’s 2015 success, Scotland’s dramatic 27-26 triumph over South Africa at HQ 12 months ago was their maiden Series title and having reached the final in France last weekend, eventually going down 15-5 to South Africa, Calum MacRae’s team are full of confidence.
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