Cape Town - On the eve of a ground-breaking Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco, World Rugby chairperson Bill Beaumont is anticipating a compelling and very special event that will further rugby’s global appeal.
The three-day, 40-team Rugby World Cup Sevens will be a competition of firsts - the first World Cup in the USA, the first sevens event to feature an exciting knock-out format and the first Rugby World Cup Sevens to be hosted in a Major League Baseball world champion venue.
It is also the first after the landmark Rio 2016 Olympic Games - an event that projected sevens to a record global broadcast audience and attracted 30 million new fans to the sport.
Fan-engagement in the USA was an integral part of the Olympic Games revolution. Broadcaster NBC introduced the sport to new audiences across the nation, which was a major driver behind record fan growth, while sevens' made for social media format is proving a hit with youth audiences in the USA.
"Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 will be a ground-breaking and spectacular event that will write another exciting chapter in the remarkable sevens success story," Beaumont said.
"We awarded our most prestigious sevens event to the USA because we know that it is much more than a nation with simply rugby potential, but a nation with a growing, thriving and engaged rugby audience.
"And what a stage we have - one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues in a famous sports-loving city. The stage is set for a very special and innovative tournament - the biggest Rugby World Cup Sevens, the most digitally-engaged, most viewed, and we hope the most competitive Rugby World Cup Sevens to date," he said.
"The stars of sevens will shine in the USA's Golden City and we look forward to three days of world-class rugby sevens that will further the reach and appeal of rugby across the nation and around the globe."
The event is on track to be the best-attended rugby event ever in the USA with an attendance of more than 95 000 anticipated across the three days as 24 men's and 16 women’s teams challenge defending men’s and women’s champions New Zealand for the crown.
The action at AT&T Park - home of eight-time baseball world series champions the San Francisco Giants - kicks off at 10:00 local time on Friday, with Fiji versus Spain in the women’s competition.
With every match a knock-out encounter, fans are urged to take their seats early not to miss out on the drama.
The event will have fans at heart, with free events for the public to enjoy an innovative programme of digital activations, including the Rugby7Stars game and augmented reality technology, set to maximise engagement.
Philip Snyman (captain), Ryan Oosthuizen, Dylan Sage, Zain Davids, Werner Kok, Heino Bezuidenhout, Dewald Human, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld, Selvyn Davids, Siviwe Soyizwapi