Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 is almost here. In less than 48 hours DHL Stadium in Cape Town will be packed full of fans enjoying a unique spectacle.
New Zealand arrive as defending champions in both the men’s and women’s tournaments, but they know they have their work cut out if they are to hold onto their crowns.
Ahead of Friday’s big kick-off, we run the rule over seven players we cannot wait to see in action in Cape Town this weekend.
Cecil Afrika (South Africa)
South Africa’s record points scorer on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Cecil Afrika was the surprise inclusion in the Blitzboks’ RWC Sevens 2022 squad.
Afrika has not represented his country since March 2020, however, coach Neil Powell has called on his experience as he attempts to cope with the loss of Dewald Human to injury.
Powell praised Afrika’s “big match temperament” and he certainly possesses a lot of that, having helped South Africa to Commonwealth Games gold in 2014 and an Olympic bronze medal in Rio two years later.
The 34-year-old, who amassed 1,462 Series points between 2009-2020, has been playing professional sevens in France and now has an opportunity to appear at a second RWC Sevens.
Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
Electric winger Michaela Blyde scored nine tries, including two hat-tricks, as the Black Ferns Sevens won RWC Sevens 2018 in San Francisco.
Three of those tries came in the 29-0 defeat of France in the final, and four years on she is showing no signs of slowing down.
New Zealand returned to take part in the final two women’s tournaments of the 2022 Series and Blyde crossed the whitewash an incredible 15 times in only 12 appearances.
She followed that up with 11 tries in five appearances, including six in one match against Sri Lanka, at the Commonwealth Games at Coventry Stadium as the Black Ferns Sevens finished third.
Terry Kennedy (Ireland)
The top try-scorers on both the men’s and women’s Series in 2022 were Irish, Terry Kennedy (50) and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (36).
Ireland’s men have been drawn to play Portugal in the opening match of the pre-round of 16 at DHL Stadium on Friday, and they will need Kennedy to be firing if they are to progress.
He was part of the Ireland squad for RWC Sevens 2018, scoring against South Africa in the round of 16 and once more in the 24-14 defeat of Australia in the Challenge final.
Kennedy crossed the whitewash when Ireland played Portugal, and beat them 29-0, at the RWC Sevens 2022 Europe Qualifier in Bucharest and warmed up for Cape Town with three tries at the Series event in Los Angeles last month.
Joanna Grisez (France)
Ruled out of the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year through injury, Joanna Grisez will want to leave her mark on RWC Sevens 2022.
And if the 2022 Series is anything to go by then defences in Cape Town will need to find ways to cope with her ability to get across the line.
Grisez possesses phenomenal speed and in this calendar year that has helped her to become a prolific finisher.
In her last nine appearances on the 2022 Series, Grisez scored an incredible 18 tries, a run that included two hat-tricks and one match, against Brazil in Toulouse, in which she crossed the whitewash four times. Hosts South Africa, France’s round of 16 opponents, have been warned.
Marcos Moneta (Argentina)
Although already a prolific presence on the Series, Marcos Moneta announced himself to a global audience as he helped Argentina win Olympic bronze last year, scoring six tries.
His form has continued since Tokyo, and only Terry Kennedy (50) and Corey Toole (43) scored more than his 38 tries on the 2022 Series.
Moneta missed the final tournament of the men’s Series, in Los Angeles last month, through injury but has been passed fit to make his RWC Sevens debut in Cape Town.
Argentina are scheduled to play either Kenya or Tonga in the round of 16 and they will need to have Moneta firing if they are to progress to the quarter-finals.
Alowesi Nakoci (Fiji)
Should Alowesi Nakoci make her RWC Sevens debut in Cape Town this weekend, it will cap a remarkable recovery for the Olympic bronze medallist.
Nakoci was hospitalised in June after she was stabbed while trying to stop an argument between two people in a Suva suburb.
She subsequently missed the Commonwealth Games but has returned to the Fijiana squad for the showpiece tournament in South Africa.
Nakoci had been in prolific form in the 2022 Series, scoring 23 tries – including 15 in her last 12 appearances of the campaign.
Corey Toole (Australia)
Corey Toole’s debut season on the men’s Series could not have gone any better had he planned it himself.
Toole’s 43 tries in 2022 were second only to Kennedy, and helped Australia claim a first ever men’s Series title.
He ended the campaign as both the Series Rookie of the Year and the DHL Impact Player and was unsurprisingly rewarded with a place in the HSBC Dream Team.
The 22-year-old will hope to carry that form into Cape Town, where he should make his RWC Sevens debut. Australia have been drawn to play either Hong Kong or Uruguay in the round of 16.