Blitzboks Gold, Aussie women celebrate ahead of RWC7s

The Blitzboks gold medals were worn proudly, as the Aussie 7s women shone brightly after an amazing calendar year (so far) that culminated at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Each team’s performance capped a brilliant tournament this last weekend.

Now, as the party dies down in the South African men’s and Australian women’s locker rooms, some will be fully satisfied. Others across the Commonwealth and all rugby sevens nations can set their sights on the Rugby World Cup Sevens (RWC7s) tournament in September.

Achieving the Blitzboks gold objective, it was a second gold medal for South Africa, having triumphed in their previous appearance in the showpiece match in Glasgow in 2014. Head coach Neil Powell said, “It was an amazing performance from the guys. I’m really happy for the team that they got their reward for all the hard work they’ve put in over the last weeks before we came over to England.

“They are a great bunch of guys who fight for each other, for the team and for the system and I’m very proud of them.

With the clinking of gold medals, each side could feel satisfied. Although none more than the Aussie women. From the very first Olympic Champions in 2016, last year they tumbled to disappointment at the Tokyo edition. Yet within the following period until Birmingham, these ladies have been so determined to redress those failures. And how well have they accomplished that!

View the Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens schedule and fixture results here.

Blitzboks Gold, Aussie women shine at Commonwealth Games

Across the three days of competition, a vibrant crowd of more than 100,000 fans witnessed some superb showcase rugby sevens at Coventry Stadium. The Blitzboks and World Series rivals Fiji stayed undefeated, alongside the New Zealand men. Australia had a near upset result against Uganda, yet they recovered and the leading four nations would all enter the medal round playoffs on Sunday.

In the women’s draw, Australia was ‘all-powerful’ across the opening two days of regulation games, matching New Zealand in commanding scorelines. They watched as Fiji performed incredibly, as did Canada. Involved in the first major encounter of the tournament, defeating England to eliminate the British women. Like their men, this year has not been as consistent as in the past.

None could challenge the Aussie 7s, with leading player Sharni Williams expressing how delighted she and her teammates were with the win. “It hasn’t really sunk in for me. I think the win over New Zealand was huge for us. Going into thisโ€ฆ it was about that belief and figuring out that we weren’t just about that last game against Fiji.

“We believe in each other, we’ve done the work and we’ve fought through COVID. You know what’s expected. We have that accountability and whatever comes our way, we deal with it together.โ€

It all led to day three, where medals were up for grabs. And the Coventry locals filled the Stadium, with many ex-patriots displaying their colours; South African flags were on display, and the men showed a determination that had been lacking in previous Comm Games. Head coach Neil Powell spoke highly of his group staying composed, with the schedule pitting them against Australia in the semi-final.

Ticking off that box, a brilliant performance in the Gold medal match had them outclass Fiji on the biggest stage, 31-7.

The same path cannot be said for the Aussie women. They in fact lost to the emerging Fijiana team, the 12-19 scoreline denting some supporters’ confidence, but not the team themselves. Tim Walsh would not let it affect them this time, and on this occasion that result only spurred on the 2016 Olympic Gold medal winners. They would head to the medal playoffs and show the same resolve that earned them the 2022 HSBC Sevens Series title.

Party over, as sights firmly set for RWC7s in Cape Town

With his men wearing Gold, Powell summed up the group’s feelings. “It was great to play in front of a full capacity and an amazing atmosphere here. We’ve got two big tournaments coming up including the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town where we will have 55,000 people in the stadium with the same energy and hopefully, the result will be the same.โ€

The men will have partied, of course. As did the Australian women โ€“ they flew back home to fanfare and television interviews. Feel good stories yet like all the other sides qualified to attend the next World Championship tournament, their focus will steel as the time nears.

Others like New Zealand will want to turn results around. Some like the Irish sides, will feel they are ‘coming of age’. Motivation will vary across each nation. Although the desire to represent and display each player’s skill, is omnipresent. Across all the draws, bringing your very best is the baseline for competition. Peaking will be a real key to the RWC7s.

From the recovery of Birmingham, to effectively maintaining conditioning, squads must aim their preparation and trial matches perfectly. The women especially, as unlike the men, they do not have a warm-up tournament. Los Angeles is a bonus for all competing Sevens Series nations, so every other group has to plan out the optimum way to travel to South Africa in peak physical and mental condition, to find themselves in the playoff race for the Gold trophies on offer.

2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens, Cape Town โ€“ Day OneFriday September 9

“Main photo courtesy of Twitter

Leave a Comment