Sevens magic wows the fans

When it comes to World Series sevens magic, Fiji and South Africa provide the skills and thrills that leave opponents grasping thin air and spellbound crowds gasping in wonderment.

That was the way it was when Hamilton successfully hosted their first World Series sevens and Fiji emerged sensational 24-17 winners after trailing the speedy South Africans 17-5 at halftime.

South Africa have serious talent in the form of the sensational Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith, the latter starring for the Barbarians against the All Blacks at Twickenham late last year. But they had no answer to combat the big, strong-running Fijians’ amazing offloads.

For me, the standard of that final compensated for the disappointment of seeing the All Blacks sevens pipped at the posts for third by Aussie skipper James Stannard’s drop goal penalty.

I also confess to my failure to accept this is an All Blacks sevens when not one member of the squad is capable of making the All Blacks 15 starters and eight reserves team.

However one who might one day is 19-year-old Vilimoni Koroi who has been compared to the legendary Tomasi Cama, who was quick to spot his talent when Koroi was playing for Feilding High School.

Blessed with Fijian genes, the nuggety Koroi has a sharp eye for a gap, good balance and lightning acceleration, the same attributes that have carried Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie so far.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Koroi, courageous captain Scott Curry, veteran Tim Mikkelson and Joe Webber, crucial tackles were missed and sloppy passes proved costly when it came to the crunch.

While bright futures are predicted for Koroi and 18-year-olds Etene Nanai-Seturo and Caleb Clarke under new coach Clark Laidlaw, the team lacks the cohesion and individual brilliance possessed by Fiji and South Africa.

Still, it is a credit to Scotsman Laidlaw that, with 69 points, they are currently second in the World Series behind South Africa (77), and ahead of Fiji (62) and Australia (60) who also have exciting youngsters in Lachlan Anderson and Maurice Longbottom.

Meanwhile, having scored a record 13 international wins in all three forms of cricket, the Black Caps came to a shuddering halt with three successive T20 losses, two against Pakistan and another against Australia in Sydney.

Having scored 117 for nine, it was a pathetic effort by the New Zealand batsmen with Colin de Grandhomme the only one to take the game to the Baggy Caps with an unbeaten 38 off 24 balls.

Why on earth he is batting as low as No 7 when he regularly performs ahead of so many rated above him is hard to comprehend.

Having recovered from their humiliating Ashes test series loss to Australia to beat them in the ODI series, England have cause to fancy their chances against a New Zealand team that has lost their way, especially when playing abroad.

What is especially disturbing is the lack of fortitude shown by some batsmen if openers Colin Munro and Martin Guptill fail to fire in the manner they did earlier in the season.

  •  Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author

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