Sevens curtain falling

Rugby sevens players who were unlucky enough not to score during the tournament had to do what is...
Rugby sevens players who were unlucky enough not to score during the tournament had to do what is becoming a traditional underwear streak to halfway. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
For 10 years you have entertained us, thrilled us, left us with sunburned shoulders and kept some of us out late at night. This weekend, after 10 years, Queenstown will farewell the National Rugby Sevens, which is heading to Rotorua. But before the curtain comes down, Queenstown still has one more weekend of fun.

Pool A: Auckland, Wellington, Tasman, South Canterbury
Pool B: Otago, Hawkes Bay, North Harbour, Wairarapa Bush
Pool C: Waikato, Manawatu, Southland, Northland
Pool D: Canterbury, Taranaki, Counties-Manukau, Bay of Plenty

Everything is running in Otago's favour this year. The team has more motivation than any other side to win the tournament as it plays host for the last time for at least two years and will seek redemption after bowing out just one short of becoming 2012 champion.

The team will also be brimming with confidence after winning last year's regional qualifying tournament in Timaru.

Boys in blue and gold to watch are New Zealand sevens squad member Kieran Moffat, Dunedin club rugby standout Peter Breen, captain Paul Grant and provincial newcomer and former Wakatipu High School pupil Michael Collins. Last year's player of the tournament, Buxton Popoali'i, will be sorely missed.

Defending champion Auckland, sevens stalwart Waikato and the ever-cool Canterbury will not fail to entertain and are almost guaranteed to make the playoffs. Other contenders include Hawkes Bay, North Harbour and, of course, Otago.

My pick, Waikato. The team has only three returning from last year's side, but under coach Roger Randle won the hardest of the three qualifying tournaments in the northern region and will be looking to continue that form into tomorrow, with several of its key players seeking national selection.

What better way to send off a great tournament than to get women on to the playing field too? The addition of six women's teams - Auckland, Tasman, Taranaki, Canterbury, Waikato and Manawatu - has meant parts of the tournament will be played in Arrowtown on Saturday and the tournament will run a little later, to 6.30pm, on Sunday.

I watched the South Island qualifying tournament with much interest and, as much as I hate to say it, Canterbury looks great.

For a full preview of the weekend's tournament, see today's Otago Daily Times.

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