Vegas – USA 7’s Rugby

Apart from spending a few days with our wonderful friends, they also got tickets to the Vegas USA7’s Rugby tournament. Not just any tickets but Club tickets – we had the best view in the stadium, fantastic food that never ran out and a range of beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) to satisfy everyone’s desires.

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Friday the gates were meant to open at 3 pm however they were a little unorganized and opened somewhat later – not too late that we missed any of the games. Saturday and Sunday all things ran smoothly.

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Rugby 7’s is played with 7 players and not the usual 15 man team but on the same size field of the 15 aside rugby. Understandably then they cannot play for 40 minutes each half, they only play seven minutes, and the final game that gets played for the coveted cup is 10 minutes each half. In the quarter, semi-finals and the final there has to be a winner, so extra time gets played until the first team scores.

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The games are so short that we got feasted all day with exciting, competitive, and a bruising contact sport that made it thrilling to watch. There were tackles aplenty, tries galore and gratefully not too many yellow or reds cards. 16 professional teams, 44 games what is not to enjoy?

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My team for the tournament had to be Japan. They showed so much promise and played with a huge amount of heart, determination and pride. Their progress over the last few years in this tournament has been immeasurable. The biggest surprise of the tournament was Kenya’s win over New ZealandNew Zealand failed to score a point in that game. I wonder when or if ever that had happened. New Zealand, always favourites, looked lethargic and uninterested; it is time for a shake-up in the entire squad and management, new blood is what they need.

The biggest disappointment was England’s unbelievable poor attempt at anything, losing every game except one that they drew. They looked completely clueless and to the English supporters that we shared the weekend in the club with (lovely people), I must commend you for the way you accepted your defeat after each and every game.

I must mention the USA team; another team that has improved dramatically especially over the last three years. You made your country proud with your discipline, pride and enjoyment on and off the field.

Naturally I hoped South Africa would do better than third, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I salute Cecil Afrika, who is South Africa’s 7’ anchor. The team is a well-oiled team thanks to Neil Powell the coach, but (and this is a huge but) what on earth is Brian Habana doing there. Is it now correct to put old men into a fast paced, energy sapping game, I don’t think so. For goodness sake let him retire already. He is not 7’s material now nor for the Olympics.

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On the downside, I have to mention the bad quality of refereeing – shocking decisions that got made by the referees instead of them using the TV replay to make crucial decisions. These poor decisions cost some teams a game or a place in a final and many points on the log. The technology is available so why don’t they use it? It is my opinion that the referees think they are bigger than the game, and that is sad.

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The atmosphere in and around the Sam Boyd Stadium was awesome even with the craziest weather I have come across in ages. For most of the tournament, a very strong wind blew over the stands from the right side of the stadium. The winds were powerful at 35 mph with gusts up to 55mph. On the left side of the stadium, there were temporary stands set up for certain VIP’s with a tarpaulin cover; this was stripped right off during these winds. Behind this stand it was clear, and we could see the dust storms raging in the distance. On Sunday, the last day and nearing the cup final games the winds changed direction bringing with it the rain. The winds now blew harder and came in over the stadium from the left. The rain mixed with the dust storms gave a very unusual display of rolling misty dust, definitely one of the strangest weather occurrences I have ever seen. Nonetheless, the vibe and the festive atmosphere continued.

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The highlight of the tournament happened when we met Waisale Severi, undoubtedly the best 7’s player in the history of the game. He is no longer playing and yet he still gives so much of his time and energy to the sport in such a positive way. What a fabulous, gentle and humble person, it was an honour to have met him.

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Congratulations to Fiji on a fantastic deserved win of the tournament and if I can encourage anyone to attend this tournament or any of the tournaments around the world I do so with a glad heart. It is a fantastic event and an unbelievable experience. Vegas 7’s will be on my cards for next year and every year Lord willing.

Next blog – The supporters.

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