Fiji's Samisoni Viriviri named Player of the 2013-2014 Series
New Zealand win fourth straight championship as season ends in London
All Blacks have won 12 of 15 HSBC Sevens World Series
New Zealand may have retained rugby’s Sevens World Series in fine style, but Fiji’s Samisoni Viriviri claimed the honor of being named the competition’s leading player following the finale in England.
The flying winger was in imperious form throughout the season, as his searing pace and clinical finishing combined to produce 52 tries – 19 more than his closest rival Tim Mikkelson.
New Zealander Mikkelson, who was player of the year in 2013, had been one of four players in contention this time, along with South Africa captain Kyle Brown and England skipper Tom Mitchell.
“I am very proud to win this award and be the first Fijian to be named Sevens Player of the Year,” Viriviri told the HSBC Sevens World Series’ official website after Sunday’s awards ceremony.
“He has been the most lethal finisher this season and his all round game has been outstanding,” added Fiji coach Ben Ryan.
“He’s scored some incredible tries and defended superbly well - I think I can remember one time in this whole season when somebody went round him.”
Despite Viriviri’s individual brilliance, Fiji could only finish the season in third place, trailing second-placed South Africa and champions New Zealand.
Securing the title for the fourth year in succession, the All Blacks wrapped up their 12th win in 15 series during the group stages of the season-ending event in London.
They were defeated by host nation England in their final Pool A game at Twickenham but earlier victories over Argentina and Wales took the Kiwis to the knockout stages while simultaneously confirming them as champions.
Gordon Tietjens’ side thrashed South Africa in the quarterfinal, won a tight semifinal 12-10 against the Fijians before rallying from 21-0 down against Australia in the final to win 52-33.
The dramatic turnaround ended Australia coach Michael O’Connor’s dream of finishing with a title in his last match in charge of a Series event.
“I am going to miss the series. I’ll be back though but I probably won’t have the seat I have at the moment,” O’Connor said afterwards.
“But I will miss the players, the teams we play against, the people, the staff at the International Rugby Board – it is an amazing tournament and really a world class event.”
Unlike his rivals for Player of the Year, Viriviri was also named in the Sevens Dream Team, which featured New Zealand duo D.J. Forbes and Scott Curry, Canada’s John Moonlight and Phil Mack, as well as Cameron Clark of Australia and South African Justin Geduld.
“We have worked so hard as a team to get things right and it has paid off this year,” Mack said on the World Series website.
“To be recognized for it is great. It is a special feeling, and as a team we have made huge strides and we will share this with them.
“‘Mooner’ brings everything, his leadership is awesome, and the team follow behind him. I am super happy.”
Next season’s series starts in October, with Australia hosting the opening round, prior to its climax in London in May 2015.
With rugby sevens making its Olympic debut in two years’ time, extra incentive will be added by the knowledge that the top four-ranked nations will qualify directly for the 2016 Games in Rio.