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How offseason ‘World Series’ has set Australia up for more SVNS glory

By Finn Morton
Players of Australia lift the trophy after their teams victory in agains New Zealand during day 2 of HSBC Dubai Sevens at Sevens Stadium on December 3, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images)

After taking out the first cup final of the new SVNS season in Dubai, the Australian women’s sevens side are as motivated as ever to replicate their success in Cape Town this weekend.

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With the memories of their disappointing 2022/23 season still fresh in the minds of the playing group, the Aussies are looking to build towards greatness after a six-month “offseason.”

Australia famously brought an end to New Zealand’s incredible 41-game winning run in last weekend’s thrilling decider, and they’re unbeaten going into day two in South Africa.

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Playing in front of a vibrantly brilliant crowd in the Western Cape, the Aussies almost repeated their pool play in heroics by not conceding a point – but Fiji cancelled that out with a late effort.

The women in gold beat Spain 38-nil, Japan 54-nil, and were beating SVNS heavyweights Fiji 28-nil before Adi Vani Buleki brought through for a score in the 15th minute.

But with an incredible points differential of +113, Australia have emerged as the team to beat once again this weekend – that’s an insight into their hunger, commitment and desire.

“Obviously having the win always helps but I think that just motivates us more, we want to keep winning,” Australian Demi Hayes told RugbyPass.

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“We don’t want to come to a second tournament and fall short again. We did that last year and we were pretty disappointed with that.

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“We want to be getting better every tournament, not falling short… people are going to be coming after us but every team is super competitive at the moment so we still want to be as competitive as we can when we verse them.”

Time and time again, the Aussie women were forced to watch their Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand run away with cup final glory last season.

Australia took out the Dubai SVNS final a year ago, but the New Zealanders went on to win every other tournament throughout that campaign. Their dominance was unmatched.

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But looking to learn from their shortcomings, the Aussies took part in a mini SVNS season during a gruelling offseason – travelling abroad to meet some of the best teams in the world.

“We played nearly a whole World Series in that offseason so we had seven tournaments to get our combinations working really well together,” Hayes added.

“The 13 that are here, plus a few girls that are at home, are a really close-knit group.

“We’ve really worked on those combinations and made sure that when we came out in Dubai and here for the first few legs of the World Series that we were really starting to bang.”

Defence wins championships. It’s an adage – potentially a cliché – that practically every sports fan anywhere in the world has heard over and over.

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While some might laugh it off as nothing more than a saying, the Aussies pride themselves on their “brick wall” in defence and that proved the difference in key games last weekend.

“Sometimes our defensive efforts make sure we fall short of wins so we always pride ourselves on having a brick wall, no one’s getting through us. We’re a sisterhood and no one’s breaking that sisterhood.

“There’s seven girls on the field but then there’s five on the bench and there’s girls behind us so there’s always a brick wall after brick wall after brick wall.

“Unfortunately we let a try in this afternoon but we really pride ourselves on not letting anyone score and its massive going into tomorrow.”

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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