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7s World Cup

New Zealand win Vancouver Sevens, Blitzboks 4th

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New Zealand beat Australia 17-14 to win the Vancouver Sevens on Sunday and solidify their lead in the World Rugby Sevens Series.

MATCH CENTRE | Vancouver Sevens

The Blitzboks finished fourth after losing 26-19 to hosts Canada in the Bronze Final, having earlier lost 27-15 to the All Blacks Sevens in the semi-final.

Second-half yellow cards to Maurice Longbottom and Lachie Miller proved costly for Australia as New Zealand came from behind to win their third sevens title this season after triumphs in Cape Town and Hamilton.

Australia had a chance to claim a victory after New Zealand’s Sam Dickson was sin-binned late, but a wild forward pass from Lewis Holland allowed the Kiwis to hang on.

Australia were down by two men with four minutes remaining when Joe Ravouvou scored his second try to put New Zealand ahead.

Australia had dominated the opening five minutes, but managed to score just once on a try from Anderson.

Ravouvou dotted down for New Zealand’s first try, but Australia led 14-5 at halftime after a breakaway try by Longbottom.

After Longbottom was sin-binned for a high tackle early in the second half Andrew Knewstubb’s try trimmed the deficit to two points.

Miller was then shown a yellow card over a late tackle and New Zealand took advantage.

New Zealand top the standings on 115 points with South Africa second on 104. Fiji are third on 83 and Australia fourth on 81.

Earlier on Sunday, suffocating defence had keyed New Zealand’s 17-5 quarter-final win over Fiji.

Tries from Tim Mikkelson and Sione Molia saw New Zealand take a 12-0 halftime lead as the Fijians struggled to get their running game going.

Fiji’s lone try, by Josua Vakurunabili, came with New Zealand down a man. But the All Blacks Sevens responded by securing the ball on the re-start and finishing with a try from Joe Ravouvou.

Two tries from Caleb Clark, along with one each from Mikkelson, Etene Nanai-Seturo and Sam Dickson gave New Zealand a 27-15 win over South Africa in the semis.

Australia downed England 31-12 in the quarters, then ended the dream run of Canada – who had beaten Spain 21-0 to reach the final four – with a dramatic 19-14 semi-final win.

Australia led by five going into the final seconds only for Canada to win a turnover and seize a chance to snatch the victory.

The hosts appeared to have pulled it off when Theo Sauder burst through the defensive line, but a video review showed he had lost the ball over the line.

Canada had grabbed the opening try before Lachie Miller evaded his Canadian pursuers and offloaded to Nick Malouf, who got it back to Anderson for an equalising try.

A try from Henry Hutchinson and another from Miller followed in quick succession. But a try from Mike Fuailefau saw Canada narrow the deficit to five points with less than two minutes remaining.

Although they didn’t make it to the final, Canada finished on a high note with a victory over South Africa in the bronze medal match.

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7s World Cup

Kolbe marvels at golden path that led to Toulon

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“I honestly never thought that I would come this far,” said World Cup winning winger Cheslin Kolbe as he was unveiled by his new club Toulon on Friday.

The 27-year-old Springbok, who joined Toulon this summer after four years at Toulouse ended with a Top 14 and European double, talked at length to AFP about the obstacles he has overcome, his love of France and his excitement at his new challenge and at the potential of winning World Cup and Olympic medals in the country in the next three years.

“Looking back now, I honestly never thought that I would come this far in my rugby career because of all the challenges I faced at a young age,” said Kolbe who is just over 5-foot-7 tall.

“Being told that I’m too small, I’m too light. I’ll never be able to play against the bigger boys, especially in South Africa and obviously the guys from New Zealand.”

“My dad always told me not to worry what other people said, just make sure to do what you set out for yourself.”

Kolbe’s father played rugby.

“I was never big into rugby. I did athletics. Just getting to watch my dad each and every week and go to training with him. I just fell more in love with rugby and I just wanted to be like my dad as well.”

“He’s done everything for me that he could do,” Kolbe said. “We haven’t had it easy. Growing up, we never had the best of things, but my parents always made sure that they could give me opportunities.”

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” he said. “I need to make sure that I keep working as hard as I can because there’s so much talent out there that can just come in at any time.”

“I think the specifics of rugby nowadays with the impacts and the intensity, you’re lucky if you can play between 10 to 14 years of professional rugby, especially at the Top 14.”

– ‘Positive influence’ –

Kolbe was born and grew up in the northern suburbs of Cape Town and started his career with Western Province, winning the Currie Cup in 2014.

He joined Toulouse in 2017 and said his decision to join Toulon was partly motivated by a desire to remain in the Top 14.

“I wanted to stay in France because myself and my family, we just love the culture,” he said. “We’ve made friends that became family to us across France.”

He added that the family were contemplating staying “here as long as you can to hopefully qualify for our passports.”

Kolbe played in the South African team that won the World Cup in 2019 and also collected a bronze medal as part of the sevens team in Rio in 2016.

The next rugby World Cup and Olympics will be in France.

The World Cup comes first.

“Yeah, 2023 is going to be massive, especially in France,” Kolbe said. “For me, being here and playing here definitely helps.”

The Games follow in 2024.

“I’m not sure if my age is going to allow me to play in the next Olympics,” said Kolbe, who turns 28 later in October. “Obviously, it will be a privilege for me whenever I get to represent my country and hopefully win that gold medal.”

“For me, the most important thing is just to play as well as I can, and the rest will take care of itself.

“I’m just doing the best that I can to make my family proud, make the people that support me, make them proud and just have a positive influence.”

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Vancouver, Langford both back on HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series calendar in 2022

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Vancouver and Langford, B.C., are back on the full 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series schedule.

World Rugby announced Tuesday that the 2022 season will feature 10 men’s and seven women’s rounds over six months, starting in November with a pair of joint men’s and women’s events in Dubai.

The 2022 season will feature new stops in Malaga and Seville, Spain, as well as Toulouse, France.

The World Series ground to a halt due to the pandemic after the Canada Sevens men’s tournament in Vancouver in March 2020. The women’s event in Langford, slated for May 2-3, 2020, was cancelled along with the rest of the season.

The 2021 campaign eventually was reduced to two events, in Vancouver and Edmonton last month, with some teams missing due to pandemic-related travel and other restrictions. The women’s event was limited to four teams in both cities.

South Africa won both men’s events in Canada with the Canadians finishing sixth in Vancouver and fourth in Edmonton. Britain won the two so-called women’s “Fast Four” tournaments with Canada third both times.

Both Canadian teams were missing veterans, either through retirement or players taking time off after the Tokyo Olympics where the men finished eighth and the women ninth.

The 2022 season will kick off behind close doors Nov. 26-27 with the Emirates Dubai Sevens. A second event Dec. 3-4 at the same venue will feature fans in the stands at the Sevens Stadium.

The World Series will then return to Europe as Spain plays host to combined men’s and women’s events in Malaga and Seville on Jan. 21-23 and 28-30, respectively. The Spanish events temporarily replace traditional stops in Sydney, Australia, and Hamilton, New Zealand, which are currently unable to host due to pandemic-related issues.

The men’s competition then moves to North America with stops Feb. 26-27 in Vancouver and March 5-6 in Los Angeles before shifting to Asia where Hong Kong will host a combined men’s and women’s event April 1-3, followed by a men’s event April 9-10 in Singapore.

After Hong Kong, the women will play April 30-May 1 in Langford before joining the men for a joint event in Toulouse where the women’s season champions will be crowned. The men’s season wraps up May 28-29 in London.

Rugby sevens will also take centre stage next year at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, (July 29-31) and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town (Sept. 9-11).

Japan joins the men’s World Series competition as a core team following its promotion as HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series champions in 2020.

Britain will compete in the opening two rounds of the World Series in Dubai before reverting to competition as national unions for the remainder of the 2022 campaign, with England, Scotland and Wales participating on the men’s side and England on the women’s.

The 16 men’s core teams after the Dubai events are Canada, Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, the U.S. and Wales.

The 11 core women’s teams after the Dubai events are Canada, Australia, Brazil, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Russia, Spain and the U.S.

New Zealand’s Black Ferns were champions in 2020.

With Britain competing in the opening two rounds of next season, a points system will be used “that promotes fairness for all competing teams, including those who comprise Great Britain,” according to World Rugby. The system will also be used if teams have to miss events due to COVID-19.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2021

© Copyright Times Colonist



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Sonny Bill Williams reveals how he’s facing up to the man in the mirror

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Train hard. Play hard. Party hard.

That was, and maybe still is, the environment inside plenty of high-performance sports bubbles. It gets people in trouble. It leads to cover-ups and, inevitability, double standards. When the only goal is winning, those who know how to win become a protected species.

Until it all falls apart.

Retired NRL great and dual international Sonny Bill Williams can talk about every facet of such a life. At 23, he was already a premiership-winning rugby league player, had represented his country and become the sport’s most wanted man – wanted by clubs, fans, the paparazzi, and wanted in a way others might crave.

His talent, money, fame, and celebrity lifestyle should have given him everything he needed. But for each of the days he spent in rugby league’s limelight, and each of the headlines he earned as a hard man in a hard sport, he spent the nights staring at the ceiling in a deep depression.

He felt the walls of his chest closing in. He kept looking for a release valve. He could do nothing wrong on the field but was making plenty of wrong decisions off it.

In one weekend, he could be both front and back page news.

In the end, he ran. He ran from his club, the Canterbury Bulldogs, and he ran from the game of NRL. He ran to France to try his hand at rugby union, a kind of “new beginning”.

Sonny Bill Williams looks into the distance while sweating on the NRL field.
Uncertain of what might become of him, Williams ran from the Bulldogs and the NRL in 2008.(Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris)

In the process, he was handed rugby league’s biggest-ever fine. For breaking his contract, the settlement cost him over a million dollars, money he didn’t have. Footballer, boxer and friend Anthony Mundine got together with some of his mates to find the money while Williams finally confronted what he was running from – the man in the mirror.

“Had many mistakes, had many great heights, but I feel like the beauty of my story is that I’m a work in progress,” Williams told The Ticket.

On the journey, he has won rugby league premierships, rugby union World Cups, a New Zealand national boxing title and he became an Olympian in rugby sevens.

At 14, he left his family in New Zealand after signing a contract with the Canterbury Bulldogs. At the time, all he wanted to do was buy a decent house for his mum.

An 18-year-old Sonny Bill Williams crosses his arms and looks up while standing on an empty oval.
An 18-year-old Williams made his first grade debut in 2004.(Getty Images: Anthony Phelps)

“You know, it’s crazy. I look back at that now and I have mad empathy for that young man that’s done that, but I was driven, and I was driven from the thought of buying mum that house with wallpaper.

Success and struggles

Success was immediate: a first-grade debut at 18, a premiership, national representation and voted one of the world’s top players, all in a single season. But by 21 he was being told by doctors he might never play again because of the number of severe injuries he had suffered, such was the intensity with which he played the game.

Sheer strength of mind saw him play at the highest level of sport for another 17 years.

Sonny Bill Williams of the All Blacks celebrates
Williams after winning the Rugby World Cup semi-final in 2015.(Reuters: Henry Browne)

Early on, Williams became acutely aware that his excessive lifestyle was leaving him empty inside.

“There was a time in my life I didn’t, I didn’t drink at all, until I actually made first grade, believe it or not.

“I wasn’t dealt with or given the traits to be strong about what I believed in or who I was. I would just follow the leader. The boys are drinking, I’m going to drink, I was happy-go-lucky.

“Then came the struggles with partying, alcohol and drug abuse, you know, the womanising stuff, treating women how they shouldn’t be treated.

Sonny Bill Williams walks with his head down.
An impressionable teenager, Williams says at the time he was playing his best football, he was personally at his worst.(AAP: Grant Trouville)

“I still wasn’t saying no, [but] I got to a place where I started to figure out that these things were detrimental to me.

“I was at a stage where everything was just all-encompassing. I had to go.

“I don’t really know what I’m doing. I want to be better, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to turn.

“I just took off because I was really scared of what might become of me.

Sonny Bill returns home
The year after Williams left the NRL and went overseas, he got a lot of attention when he arrived back in Australia for a boxing bout and to play for the Barbarians.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

Every athlete admits that transitioning to life after sport is one of the most difficult challenges they will face. Williams credits his manager, Khoder Nasser, for always pushing him beyond his comfort zone to continue his growth as a person.

Khoda Nasser speaks to Sonny Bill Williams in the corner of a boxing ring.
Khoder Nasser talks to Williams in his corner during a fight in Auckland.(Getty Images: Sandra Mu)

Williams is recognised as one of the quiet guys in sport. He’d prefer to leave the writing and talking to others, yet he is now a commentator on Channel Nine and has just released his biography, You Can’t Stop The Sun From Shining.

He’s also a mentor, another role he might have shied away from previously, helping the next generation of athletes navigate their own journeys.

“What people need to understand firstly is that these young men and young women, they’re going to make mistakes.

All Black star player Sonny Bill Williams
Williams is now a mentor for up-and-coming young athletes.(AAP: Dan Peled)

“Just because they’re at the top of their game, they don’t have it all worked out.

“If they stuff up, it’s not only going to affect them, as I know from experience, it’s going to affect your mum, your grandma, your sisters, your brother, your community.

“It’s going to bring embarrassment to all of them, that’s where it hurts the most.”

Fleeing to France

In 2008, without telling anybody at the NRL club he was contracted to, Williams fled to France, accepting an offer to convert to rugby union. That was only half the story. For Williams, the circle was completed when he also converted to Islam.

Sonny Bill Williams races away with the ball and is about to score a try.
Sonny Bill Williams plays for Toulon in Marseille, France in 2010.(Getty Images: David Rogers)

“The Islamic saying is, with hardship comes ease. When I think about that time, that’s what I think about. When I first went there [to France] I was waking up with migraines. This is a 23-year-old, it shows how much stress I must have been under, albeit my own doing.

“I think about those times and I think I was a young man who didn’t know what mental health struggles were. A young man who felt like he was trapped. He felt like he was doing the right thing but didn’t know how to go about it.

“Being in France and Europe for those two years was so vital to the growth in me. Essentially, I still had to face those demons that were facing me in the mirror. Islam has given me the antidote, or the medicine, to heal the wound.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Tracey Holmes interviews boxer and former rugby player Sonny Bill Williams.

Rugby union success followed. He played in two World Cup-winning All Blacks teams before changing his game completely to become an Olympian in rugby sevens. Boxing beckoned. Then a final stint back where it all began, in rugby league.

He has also tapped into an inner streak he says he gets from his mum — activism.

A man talks in front of Parliament House
Williams and former Socceroo Craig Foster joined forces in 2020 to call on the Government to accept the New Zealand offer to resettle refugees.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

“We’re in a space where we are so desensitised, there are so many inhumane acts around the world where a lot of people just seem not to care, but I always try to be in that place.”

There are no destinations for Sonny Bill Williams, just the constant effort to be better.

There’s more to come, no doubt, but he’s already packed a lot into his 37 years.

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