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, the World Rugby site noted players to watch in Cape Town this weekend.
Most notable are the players from Oceania: Alowesi Nakoci (Fiji), Corey Toole (Australia), and Michaela Blyde (New Zealand).
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.
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.