Kiwis and Fiji favourites in Durban
November 16, 2000

The 2000/2001 International Rugby Board World Sevens Series gets under way at the Absa Stadium in Durban on Saturday. L
ast year the first edition of the series was a huge success and the IRB are hoping to build on that momentum.

Defending champions New Zealand start as favourites, with traditional Sevens pioneers Fiji set to be their stiffest test. The Durban leg is the first of 10 tournaments scheduled in places as diverse as Dubai and Shanghai.

Fiji won the South African leg of the series last year when it was played in Stellenbosch, thrilling the crowd with their breathtaking flair and almost telepathic understanding between players.

New Zealand, however, proved to be more consistent and were able to put powerful sides on the field wherever the series stopped.

Australia, too, are a formidable unit and have the ability to upset either New Zealand or Fiji on their day while hosts South Africa have taken the code more seriously and offered contracts to leading Sevens players.

There will be a total of 16 teams competing over the two days of play, divided into four pools of four teams each. The tournament is structured
into a Cup, Bowl and Plate competition to ensure that even the losing sides have something to play for.

Pool A is headed by New Zealand and their squad reads like a Super 12 franchise. Eric Rush (pictured) and Joeli Vidiri spearhead an impressive array of talent which includes Roger Randle, Dallas Seymour, Matua Parkinson and Ilesea Tanivula. The New Zealanders are also the No 1 seeds. France, Namibia and Portugal make up the rest of their group.

Pool B features No 2 seeds Fiji who won't have many of their more established players such as Waisele Serevi, Filimoni Delasau, Marika
Vunibaka and Apolosi Satala on view.

But Sevens rules in the islands and it is tough to imagine any final other than New Zealand against Fiji despite the lack of familiar names. The remainder of Pool B comprises Canada, Kenya and Wales.

Australia are seeded third and head Pool C, which appears to be the toughest group of all. England and Argentina should fare well with Zimbabwe making up the numbers.

The Australians consist mainly of young up and coming players from the healthy club scene, led by Super 12 regulars Matt Dowling and Rick Nalatu. England's most notable name is that of former international scrumhalf Andy Gommersall.

South Africa is drawn in Pool D along with Samoa, Georgia and Morocco. While the South Africans are the seeded team in the group, it's Samoa who should emerge as the top side in the Pool.

The hosts have selected young talent with captain Jacques Olivier by far the most experienced player. Exciting Lions player Andre Pretorius will have a chance to make a mark for himself, while Mac Masina, Paul Treu and Warren Britz could shine.

Samoa will parade the brilliant talent of Afato So'oalo, Semo Sititi and Tanner Vili, who all have Super 12 and Test experience. Georgia and Morocco should fight it out for the wooden spoon in the group.

The top two teams in each group advance to the Cup quarterfinals. The bottom two move into the bowl quarterfinals. The four losers of the Cup
quarters then progress into a Plate semifinal, while the losers contest the Bowl.

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