As the dust settles on the fourth round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Sydney, World Rugby commentator Tony Johnson and DHL ambassador Rob Vickerman give us their thoughts.
“Overall it’s been an absolutely fantastic tournament, if not a slightly gruelling experience because of the heat and humidty," said New Zealand commentator Johnson.
“I loved the crowd interaction, loved the atmosphere around the ground, it's a wonderful setting and a fantastic tournament.”
Australia had a slow start to the series and were blighted by injury in the run up to the tournament but managed to get to the semi-finals in front of their fans, something that impressed Johnson.
“They had massive disruption over this particular part of the series. I think a lot of credit has to go to their coach Andy Friend who has cobbled this group together. It was wonderful for the tournament that they made the semi-finals. They played really well but I think the strain really showed.
“(James) Stannard had an absolutely fantastic tournament, one of the players of the tournament, but he was out on his feet by the end. But this augurs well for the rest of the season for Australia.”
For Johnson, though, the game of the tournament came early on day two at Allianz Stadium.
“The New Zealand-Fiji quarter-final was an outstanding performance. For New Zealand to win, it was that stubborn refusal to lose that has been a hallmark of NZ teams over the years. But England thoroughly deserved to win that semi-final later in the day.
“I’m just in awe of South Africa at the moment. I’ve seen them around the hotel; there's a fantastic spirit in the team. I love the way they mix the inventiveness of Justin Geduld, (Rosko) Specman, (Branco) Du Preez and the blistering speed of (Seabelo) Senatla, who’ll they miss as he goes to Super Rugby.
“But I think England have been very good as well. Phil Burgess had an outstanding tournament and the captain, Tom Mitchell is a tremendous player.”
Former England captain Vickerman was also pleased to see his former team bounce back in Sydney.
“It’s bounce back-ability, isn’t it? They didn’t play well last week (in Wellington) and had a whole series of long conversations with each other. They really came out and fronted up and acquitted themselves well in the final, but ultimately there’s too much firepower in this South African team.”
While South Africa may have claimed a third title this series, there was a few surprise results over the weekend that caught Vickerman's eye.
“It’s nice to see Russia turn over some of the big teams and finishing top of the Challenge Trophy,” admitted Vickerman.
“Wales beating Fiji was nice! While I don’t like to see Fiji lose, I do like to see other nations get amongst it and show the competition across the board.
“These are exciting times, we’re moving on to Las Vegas and Vancouver and bringing the sevens show to North America.”
So, are South Africa, now 17 points clear at the top of the standings, favourites for the series crown in May?
“I think so,” added Vickerman. “The stats will tell you that this is the best start to a season since New Zealand in 2008. That’s the challenge for the rest of the teams – players are going to have to up their game against South Africa.”