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The South 7s Championships are being contested by just three teams Saturday – Atlanta Old White, Daytona and New Orleans. They’ll play each other in a round-robin, with the top two teams advancing to Nationals and playing again for the South Championship.
Though there is no real South series, all three contenders have won tournaments this summer. Old White won Hotlanta, New Orleans turned heads by winning Cape Fear, and Daytona has won plenty in Florida. All three teams have been to Nationals as recently as the last two seasons.
New Orleans was one of the most competitive teams to not reach the Cup Quarterfinals in San Francisco in 2011, but they failed to get back to Nationals last season. They’ve made returning this year a point of emphasis.
“We fully plan at being at nationals this year and Cape fear was an important weekend for us. While we were able to win all of our matches, the sides we played were good sides with some great athletes,” said NOLA’s Adam Ducoing. “I feel that we can compete on a national level right now, but winning the south qualifier and ensuring that our entire squad is comfortable within our offensive and defensive patterns is key. All in all I am very confident in our squad this season and am looking forward representing New Orleans this summer.”
Should New Orleans make it Nationals, it will be one of the few clubs able to have a quick turnaround from a deep 15s run and parlay it into a big 7s campaign. Starting the 7s push back in March will certainly have helped in that process.
“Our run in 15s was very successful, and a big part of that was because the sevens component of our team started conditioning in March for summer sevens,” said Ducoing. “As far as taking a break from 15s to 7s, no we really did not stop. We had about five days off where we had no organized team activities, but our last game for 15s was June 5th and out first 7s tournament was the 15th, so we had to go straight into practice.”
Daytona’s team is starkly different from the one that made it Nationals last season, with unavailability and injury causing turnover. But one guy coming back for Daytona is Perry Baker, the leading try scorer in San Francisco last August. Baker, once contracted with the Philadelphia Eagles as a wide receiver, is a very good athlete, and he’s been training at Tiger Rugby’s Olympic Development Academy the last several weeks.
“Perry Baker will be the one to watch,” said Daytona’s Brian Richardson. “[He] is the next fastest man next to Carlin Isles playing rugby in USA.”
Daytona has more horses in the stable, too, with college track veteran Joe Digregorio and Roderigus Caesar also posing big scoring threats.
“These three are dangerous in space,” added Richardson. “So we worked hard finding more ways to get them the ball and maintaining possessions.”