The World Series arrives in Cape Town for the first time tomorrow – the first time the series has visited the continent of Africa
World Series Sevens arrives reaches Africa for the first time this weekend, kicking off just five days after an exciting and at times unpredictable Dubai round – the shortest period between rounds for three years.
South Africa becomes the 11th country to host a round of the women's series since it began in late 2012 and Cape Town the 16th location after Dubai, Houston, Guangzhou, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Sao Paulo, Langford, London, Clermont-Ferrand, Sydney, Las Vegas, Kitakyushu, Paris, Glendale and Biarritz.
The tournament will see Canada's Bianca Farella and Kayla Moleschi draw level with New Zealand's regular captain Sarah Hirini – who today became the first female recipient of the Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year award in its 70-year history – as the most-capped players. All three will be playing in their 36th event, out of just 40 tournaments to date.
South Africa return to the series as a guest for the first time since 2017, when they impressed reaching the quarter-finals. Since then the team has suffered blow after blow from off the field (which we have reported, from time to time), the most recent being the confirmation that they will not be attending the Olympics despite winning the qualifier in Tunisia.
The decision has already cost them at least one promising athlete, just as happened when they were barred from the 2016 Games.
With the new nickname of “Imbokodo” they play on home soil for the first time. and captain Zintle Mpupha simply cannot wait. "This is new to us being at home and we are all terribly excited and nervous," Mpupha said. "We know two things – this group will play with massive heart and we will not give up.
"We realise the pace will be faster, the hits will be harder and the split-seconds will even be less. But knowing that we will be playing in our stadium, in front of our crowd, with our emblem and flag on the jersey, will give us massive energy and encouragement.
"We really hope to have a huge crowd when we play as we want to show our hearts, our guts and our talent to those who came to support us."
South Africa have a very inexperienced side with six series debutants and Zenay Jordaan and Mathrin Simmers the only players with event appearances in double figures. It will not be an easy return either as they face Dubai champions New Zealand in their opening match at Cape Town Stadium, and they will be desperate to improve on their last major international outing, when they finished in last place at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The Fern are again be led by Tyla Nathan-Wong, today named as their Sevens Player of the Year to go with the team's accolade of New Zealand Team of the Year. The Ferns have made two changes from their victorious squad in Dubai with Youth Olympic Games gold medallists Risi Pouri-Lane and Mahina Paul coming into the 12, the latter to make her series debut.
Fiji, also in Poo A, also have a debutant in their squad for the second weekend running, with Ani Mei Likuvagali given her chance to impress as they target a second Cup quarter-final in a row, while Russia welcome back Aline Arterchuk and Snezhanna Kulkova for their first appearances of the 2020 series.
Canada, as runners-up in Dubai for the second year running, are the top seeds in Pool B and will face France, Spain and Brazil. Canada and France are the only two teams to named unchanged squads from Dubai with the latter's Chloé Pelle to become her country's third player to reach 30 series events.
Spain bring Lucia Diaz into the squad after she made her series debut as an injury replacement in Dubai, while Rafaela Zanellato also steps in to the squad after being 13th player, swapping places with Aline Bednarski in a Brazil side that ended a 12-match losing run on the series with victory over Japan in the 11th place play-off last weekend.
Dubai bronze medallists USA will face Olympic champions Australia, England and Ireland in Pool C. The Eagles have made only one change with Kasey McCravey coming in to replace Kayla Canett, who drops down to 13th player.
By contrast Australia have three changes to their squad with Evania Pelite ruled out through injury. Yasmin Meakes, Demi Hayes and debutant Jakiya Whitfield come in for a tournament that will see captain Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry move ahead of Charlotte Caslick to become their country's most-capped players.
England, who beat Ireland in sudden-death extra-time to finish ninth in Dubai, bring in Beth Wilcock, while Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird also makes the 12 after being used as an injury replacement last weekend. Kate Farrell McCabe will make her series debut if, like Nic A Bhaird, is called upon in Cape Town.
AUSTRALIA: 1 Shannon Parry; 2 Sharni Williams(c); 3 Yasmin Meakes; 4 Cassandra Staples; 5 Emma Tonegato; 6 Demi Hayes; 7 Jakiya Whitfeld; 8 Madison Ashby; 9 Faith Nathan; 10 Alicia Lucas; 11 Rhiannon Byers; 12 Ellia Green; 13 Sariah Paki
BRAZIL: 1 Mariana Nicolau; 2 Luiza Campos; 3 Rafaela Zanellato; 4 Leila Dos Santos Silva; 5 Thalia Costa; 6 Isadora Cerullo; 7 Andressa Alves; 8 Eshyllen Coimbra; 9 Byanca Santa Rita Miranda; 10 Raquel Kochhann(c); 11 Bianca Silva; 12 Franciele Martins; 13 Aline Bednarski
CANADA: 1 Brittany Benn; 2 Kayla Moleschi; 3 Caroline Crossley; 4 Elissa Alarie; 5 Julia Greenshields; 6 Charity Williams; 7 Sara Kaljuvee; 8 Bianca Farella; 9 Ghislaine Landry(c); 10 Kaili Lukan; 11 Karen Paquin; 12 Pam Buisa; 13 Emma Chown
ENGLAND: 1 Jodie Ounsley; 2 Abbie Brown(c); 3 Abi Burton; 4 Heather Fisher; 5 Beth Wilcock; 6 Deborah Fleming; 7 Emma Uren; 8 Celia Quansah; 9 Alex Matthews; 10 Megan Jones; 11 Katie Mason; 12 Amy Wilson Hardy; 13 Helena Rowland
FIJI: 1 Vasiti Solikoviti; 2 Asinate Savu; 3 Raijieli Daveua(c); 4 Rusila Nagasau; 5 Mereula Torooti; 6 Lavenia Tinai; 7 Roela Radiniyavuni; 8 Ani Mei Likuvaqali; 9 Viniana Riwai; 10 Luisa Tisolo; 11 Ana Maria Naimasi; 12 Tokasa Seniyasi
FRANCE: 1 Marjorie Mayans; 2 Séraphine Okemba; 3 Chloé Pelle; 4 Yolaine Yengo; 5 Nassira Konde; 6 Fanny Horta(c); 7 Coralie Bertrand; 8 Camille Grassineau; 9 Joanna Grisez; 10 Caroline Drouin; 11 Shannon Izar; 12 Lina Guerin; 13 Mathilde Coutouly
IRELAND: 1 Claire Boles; 2 Hannah Tyrrell; 3 Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird; 4 Brittany Hogan; 5 Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe; 6 Kathy Baker; 7 Katie Fitzhenry(c); 8 Megan Burns; 9 Anna Doyle; 10 Eve Higgins; 11 Louise Galvin; 12 Emily Lane; 13 Kate Farrell
NEW ZEALAND ; 1 Ruby Tui; 2 Risi Pouri-Lane; 3 Stacey Waaka; 4 Niall Williams; 5 Huia Harding; 6 Mahina Paul; 7 Tyla Nathan-Wong(c); 8 Kelly Brazier; 9 Gayle Broughton; 10 Theresa Fitzpatrick; 11 Shiray Kaka; 12 Alena Saili; 13 Tenika Willison
RUSSIA: 1 Daria Noritsina; 2 Alina Arterchuk; 3 Snezhanna Kulkova; 4 Alena Mikhaltsova(c); 5 Baizat Khamidova; 6 Iana Danilova; 7 Kristina Seredina; 8 Nadezhda Sozonova; 9 Marina Myasnikova; 10 Elena Zdrokova; 11 Arina Bystrova; 12 Anna Baranchuk; 13 Daria Shestakova
SOUTH AFRICA ; 1 Rights Mkhari; 2 Christelene Steinhobel; 3 Buhle Sonamzi; 4 Zintle Mpupha(c); 5 Zenay Jordaan; 6 Megh Phillips; 7 Eloise Webb; 8 Sizo Solontsi; 9 Nadine Roos; 10 Mathrin Simmers; 11 Catha Jacobs; 12 Liske Lategan; 13 Lusanda Dumke
SPAIN: 1 Eva Aguirre; 2 Uri Barrutieta; 3 Amaia Erbina; 4 Patricia García; 5 Marina Bravo; 6 María García; 7 Barbara Pla(c); 8 Olivia Fresneda; 9 Lucia Diaz; 10 Anne Fernández de Corres; 11 Iera Echebarria; 12 Lide Erbina
UNITED STATES: 1 Cheta Emba; 2 Ilona Maher; 3 Abby Gustaitis(c); 4 Nicole Heavirland; 5 Alev Kelter; 6 Lauren Doyle; 7 Naya Tapper; 8 Jordan Gray-Matyas; 9 Eti Haungatau; 10 Kasey McCravey; 11 Kris Thomas(c); 12 Kristi Kirshe; 13 Kayla Canett; team Total 186; ;