'Wonderful atmosphere' for inaugural Oktoberfest 7s

Munich (Germany) (AFP) –


Munich's world-famous beer festival 'Oktoberfest' and sevens collided in a "wonderful atmosphere" on Saturday as Germany hosted the knock-out stages of its first major international rugby tournament.

Organisers hope the inaugural 'Oktoberfest 7s' will lead to Germany being awarded a leg of the World Sevens Series within the next three years.

Rugby fans turned out in their thousands for the two-day tournament in the Bavarian capital at the Olympic Stadium, the former home of Bayern Munich.

Hosts Germany, a rising force on the Sevens scene, pulled off a shock win by beating England on Friday to finish top of their pool, but bowed out after losing 26-12 to Simon Amor's young English side in the quarter-finals.

The semi-final line-up for Saturday evening sees world champions South Africa facing Olympic gold-medallists Fiji, while England play Australia.

South Africa, who brought a development squad, threw down a marker by beating Ireland 24-0 in the quarter-finals.

- 'Going great guns' -

"We're pretty happy with our performance and to keep them scoreless was even better," said captain Dylan Sage, who won Olympic bronze with the 'Blitzbokke' in Rio de Janeiro last year.

"Germany isn't regarded as a rugby nation, but the atmosphere is wonderful and it's an honour to play at Oktoberfest.

"It would be great to see them get a leg of the World Sevens Series -- it's a great party."

Australia's young squad powered past France 31-19 into the semis.

"The crowd have been great, they are cheering everything, it'd be fun to bring the World Sevens Series here," said Australia's James Stannard, who has played for the Brumbies and Western Force.

"A lot of the teams have sent young, development guys, which is great for building depth.

"It's good for Germany, they aren't known as a rugby destination, but they have been fighting really well.

"I was surprised by the standard -- they're going greats guns."

- Rugby on rise -

Rugby is on the rise in Germany, where football is king.

The national men's XV plays in the Rugby Europe Championship, the level below the Six Nations.

They took a famous scalp by beating Romania in February and host the USA, Chile and Brazil in their own autumn international series in November.

Dr Hans-Peter Wild, the owner of Capri Sun drinks company and current chairman of French Top 14 club Stade Francais, has set up the 'Wild Rugby Academy' in Heidelberg which provides Germany with the high-level facilities top rugby nations take for granted.

Germany's sevens team, coached by former Springbok 7s international Vuyolwetu Zangqa, just missed out on a place at the men's Olympic tournament in Rio.

Now they want to reach the next level.

The Oktoberfest 7s is a chance for the Germans to prove they can host the World Sevens Series and the Munich organisers plan to apply to host a leg by the end of the year.

Munich's Olympic Stadium has been reserved for the last weekend in September for the next three years in the hope the wish comes true.

"It's our dream to get a leg of the World Sevens Series, but there is still a lot of work to do before that happens," said Mathias Entenmann, chairman of the organising committee.

"This has been a good start and we have had a lot of positive feedback from World Rugby and the sponsors.

"Rugby fans around the world don't really know that some great rugby is played in Germany, so alongside Oktoberfest this is a super combination."

Germany's sports public are curious about rugby.

More than four million Germans watched Fiji win the men's sevens final in Rio despite a kick-off after midnight in the country.

The next step, though, is to earn a place in the World Sevens Series.

Earlier this year they came close, only to lose 12-7 to Spain in the final of the qualifying tournament in Hong Kong.