JAY Whyte, chairman of Fiji's Coral Coast Sevens 2012, reckons there is "the dawn of a new era in Fiji club sevens".
This follows the fall of giants Army, Samurai and Ratu Filise at the Great Eight Sevens at Lawaqa Park yesterday.
The eight teams to feature in the quarter-finals today have earned themselves a ticket to play at the Coral Coast event on November 15-17 where the first prize will be $33,000.
"We saw some upsets with Army, our finalist of two years ago, going out and Samurai, who have been in the top four the past two years, also gone. It's possibly the dawn of a new era in Fiji club sevens," Whyte said.
"Tomorrow you can't go past Wardens, who have a huge pool of talent, Red Rock who have bounced back this season and Police while it will certainly be the best of the best in action in a fortnight."
Red Rock I impressed in defeating Nadi club Mala Young Boys, featuring former Fiji captain Emosi Vucago, 26-14 and will play Nabua in the second quarter-final.
Nabua, the Suva club that was once the home of Waisale Serevi, Tomasi Cama and Alifereti Dere, made the last eight with a thrilling last-minute 12-7 win over Sharks from Nadroga. Young Nabua centre Save Rawaqa scored the winning try with time up on the clock.
Navy also won an epic encounter when Ilikena Raqura crossed after the hooter to triumph 17-14 over Police II while the experienced Emori Ratu, Mataiasi Naucutabua and Sakiusi Tavoda — the latter with five tries on day one — impressed for Hydro as they beat Tuva 15-7.
Wardens Green, the Fiji Correction Services' second side, had too much pace for Uluinakau winning 22-0 and qualified having not conceded a point while scoring 13 tries themselves. Wardens Gold have already qualified as the winners of last year's Coral Coast tournament.
The major surprises were the elimination of last year's quarter-finalists Ratu Filise — who lost to Yamacia and Red Rock II — and Samurai Barracudas after pool play.
Samurai finished in a three-way tie with Nabua and Police II in Pool D and a narrow points differential saw the lime-clad Barracudas exit the tournament and miss out on the Coral Coast Sevens.
And although they were also bumped out a feature of the day was seeing the return to action of Vucago, Isimeli Daveta and Filimoni Botitu for Mala Young Boys.
The trio, who play with Serevi at Old Puget Sound Beach in Seattle, featured for Nadroga in this year's Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy and have rejoined the club, who play only rugby sevens, for the season.
The quarter-finals of the Sigatoka River Safari Great Eight kicks off at 12noon tomorrow with the Cup final scheduled for 4.20 pm. Entry is free and early-bird tickets — $20 for three days — for the Coral Coast Sevens will be on sale.
The Aussie Thunderbolts, Tonga Aoniu, Auckland Marist and Sunnybank are among the overseas teams in the Coral Coast Sevens, with the Aussie Pearls headlining the eight-team women's draw.
Wardens, Westfield Barbarians — winners of last week's Fitness First Central Coast Sevens — and Daveta, who took out the Borneo Sevens and are in action in the Singapore Cricket Club Sevens, are among the favoured local teams.