Following stops in Hong Kong and Dubai, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 arrives in Cape Town this weekend for the second joint event of the season.
It promises to be a brilliant three days of rugby sevens, with vital points up for grabs in the race for qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
South Africa and Australia currently lead the way in the men’s and women’s tournaments respectively, but there is plenty to play for and the following seven players will hope to make an impression on the waterfront.
Maddison Levi (Australia)
Both Australia and Maddison Levi picked up exactly where they left off last season when the women’s Series got underway in Dubai last weekend.
Levi scored 24 tries during the 2022 Series and then followed that up with 10 at the Commonwealth Games and four at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 in Cape Town – including a hat-trick in the final – as her side completed a clean sweep of titles.
At The Sevens Stadium, she scored in all six of Australia’s matches, touching down four times in the pool stage win against USA, and ending the weekend with 11 tries in total.
Having scored 34 tries in her last 22 appearances for Australia, Levi is definitely someone to keep an eye on in Cape Town.
Matías Osadczuk (Argentina)
Argentina might have ground to make up on the Olympic qualification places in the men’s Series, but Matías Osadczuk is sitting pretty atop the men’s DHL Impact Player table.
Osadczuk has made an all-action start to the Series, influencing matches on both sides of the ball as Los Pumas Sevens finished fifth and sixth in Hong Kong and Dubai respectively.
Only two players scored more tries than him across those two tournaments, while he made 27 tackles – second only to Australia’s Josh Turner (30).
With a healthy number of carries (44), breaks (nine) and offloads (eight) in the opening two rounds, Osadczuk is a man in form.
Valentine Lothoz (France)
Another player who has enjoyed a fine start to the 2023 Series, Valentine Lothoz starred as France finished fourth in the women’s tournament in Dubai.
Lothoz scored four tries during the pool stage at The Sevens Stadium and then added a fifth in the bronze final, to briefly give Les Bleues a 12-7 lead against USA.
France narrowly missed out on third place, losing 21-19, but Lothoz and experienced team-mate Camille Grassineau both found themselves in the top five of the DHL Impact Player table.
Lothoz made 11 tackles, five breaks, as many offloads and 17 carries in Dubai and will want to maintain that form in South Africa.
Shilton van Wyk (South Africa)
South Africa returned to form in stunning style at The Sevens Stadium and Shilton van Wyk played a pivotal role in their success.
Having come on as an early replacement in the semi-final against New Zealand, Van Wyk scored the decisive try in the last play of the match to earn a 26-19 win and send the Blitzboks to the final.
He then started the showpiece match against Ireland and turned in a player of the match performance, crossing the whitewash twice inside the opening five minutes to help his side to a 21-5 victory.
Both Van Wyk and the Blitzboks will hope to keep that form going in front of their own fans as the Series heads to Cape Town.
Eve Higgins (Ireland)
Ireland made an encouraging start to the women’s Series, ending the pool stage with a 100 per cent record before going on to finish sixth in Dubai.
Eve Higgins was pivotal to their four wins in Dubai, touching down in each of them and ending the tournament with five tries in total.
She also made more carries than any other female player at The Sevens Stadium (31) and contributed nine tackles, five breaks and as many offloads to head to Cape Town third in the DHL Impact Player table.
Aaron Grandidier (France)
Heading into the third round of the 2023 men’s Series in Cape Town, no player has scored more tries than Aaron Grandidier’s 13.
Grandidier touched down 11 times during the opening tournament in Hong Kong last month and added two to his tally in the pool stage in Dubai.
He was unable to prevent France slipping to a quarter-final defeat to the All Blacks Sevens at The Sevens Stadium, but helped the team to a 19-12 victory against Argentina in the fifth-place play-off.
Coach Jérôme Daret will hope his side can create the opportunities to let Grandidier shine in Cape Town.
Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
Sevens fans know better than to take their eyes off Michaela Blyde when she is in full flight on a rugby pitch.
Blyde was at her prolific best at The Sevens Stadium last weekend, scoring nine tries, including a hat-trick in the 26-19 final defeat to Australia. Only Levi crossed the whitewash more often in Dubai.
With the ball, Blyde made 10 breaks and two offloads from 22 carries, while without it she put in 12 tackles to help the Black Ferns Sevens defence.
It means she heads to Cape Town second in the DHL Impact Player table, second only to Ireland’s Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.