New Zealand Sevens skipper Andrew Knewstubb is hoping the Cape Town crowd will get behind them this weekend. And given the attention New Zealand sides tend to get in the Mother City, he just might get his wish.
New Zealand – the defending Cape Town Sevens champions – will battle it out against the Blitzboks, Samoa and Zimbabwe on day one of the two-day event after being crowned Dubai champions for the first since 2009 this past weekend.
And while the Dubai Player of the Final admitted that the support they received during the second stop on the World Sevens Series certainly helped them, he wouldn’t admit that his team are going out to defend their Cape Town title and make it back-to-back tournament wins.
“After our experience here last year we know that the crowd will be big and be loud. It will be a tough tournament, and I think all the teams will agree that last week was a tough start after a tough pre-season for all of us,” Knewstubb said.
“We love it, it is awesome to get support like that, particularly away from home, and like last year I hope they get in behind us. It is a tough pool, but most of the pools are tough because the competition is getting closer and the rugby is getting better every year.
“We know we are going to have to be at our best and hopefully will be able to top our pool so we can carry momentum over into the second day.”
The New Zealand Sevens beat the Blitzboks in the semi-final before outplaying Argentina in the final to claim their only tournament in the 2017-18 series.
“We are not going out to defend the title; that is not how we see it. We are going out to win it, just like the other teams are. Scott (Curry) is a big loss to us, not only as a captain, but also as a player. But we have reinforcements on their way out from New Zealand who will bring something different,” Knewstubb said.
Knewstubb, who is standing in for injured regular skipper Curry, also explained the role centralisation has played in New Zealand Sevens’ revival after a few tough years.
Last season Clark Laidlaw’s team won the Commonwealth Games as well as the Sevens World Cup – triumphs that were especially sweet given their disappointing fifth-place finish at the Rio Olympics back in 2016 and a number of unpleasant results in between the big tournaments.
“We are all living together now subsequent to the decision to base ourselves in Tauranga, that is definitely a big part of it,” said Knewstubb.
“We now connect off the field and that has helped us connect on the field. That is a big part of it. There is change happening, and it is good change. But we know we always have to keep changing. We are not quite there at the moment, but we are getting there.”