Starmers: Extra spice in Glasgow and London

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 7 May 2013
 Starmers: Extra spice in Glasgow and London

In his latest column for TV commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith looks at the three major talking points from the Glasgow Sevens. 

There were three major talking points at the end of another fascinating World Series event in Glasgow.

Firstly, South Africa were nothing short of remarkable, winning their third Cup title of the season, and in fact meaning they have now won three of the last four tournaments. It was also a third Cup final defeat of New Zealand for Paul Treu's side, a side without the likes of Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez.

But in their absence, which I thought they would miss, shone these bring young lads, Seabelo Senatla who was brilliant, and Justin Geduld. What is for sure though is that South Africa will miss those two players in London this weekend as they are off to join up with the U20s side heading to France for this year's Junior World Championship.

It is strange to think that with South Africa winning three Cup titles this season, the most of any team, New Zealand, who were crowned World Series champions in Glasgow, have only one won.

But it is the consistency of their performance that nobody has been able to match. Yes they have lost five of the six finals they have been in, which will irk Gordon Tietjens, they have never been lower than third in all eight tournaments.

An 11th Series title in 14 years says it all, and Tietjens said after the final whistle that this, and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in June were their two targets at the beginning of the season.

A key part of their success is the discipline and Tietjenss' knowledge of the Sevens. They only had 10 fit players going into day two after Scott Curry and Ben Lam were ruled out, but he has found all this new talent like Gillies Kaka and Rocky Khan coming through.

But he has always had a core of players, and even without DJ Forbes he had Cama, Mikkelson and Raikabula at the helm allowing him to brings other in slowly. It is exceptional and special tribute should be paid to him for the 11 titles in 14 years.

Core team status

At the other end of the table there was just as much excitement, but perhaps more tension and pressure with the USA and Scotland heading into the tournament knowing that in all likeliness one of them would be heading to London having to re-qualify as a core team.

And so that proved for the hosts, who I thought were a bit unlucky after having beaten Portugal had to find a win against either England or New Zealand.

I thought it would be decided on day two in the Bowl but the USA, perhaps buoyed by their Plate victory in Tokyo or the presence of USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville, made it through to the Cup quarter finals to secure their status.

On day two they had more confidence, they knew they were good, and won a second successive Plate impeccably. They are now fitter, have better discipline, and players like Edwards and Hawkins were tremendous. They look like a team going from strength to strength.

For Scotland, however, they now head to this weekend's Series finale at Twickenham competing with Portugal, Spain, Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Tonga, Georgia and Russia for three core team places on the 2013/14 Series.

It will bring an extra spice to round nine, but it is a position Scotland, Portugal and Spain would have wanted to avoid. There will be so much tension and if they don't get into that top three they know they won't be in the Series next year.

Spain sensibly rested players in Glasgow, but they may struggle, as could Portugal who looked stale. Zimbabwe have been unlucky in the past. Russia looked very good in Glasgow in the Shield, and the Asian champions will all be up for the challenge. Tonga and Georgia could throw a surprise or two in their too and there could be more eyes on that tournament come the final day of this year's Series.

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16-17 May 2015
Venue: Twickenham
City: London
Capacity: 82,000

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