The Sevens stars were out in force at the inaugural Vancouver Sevens, so with the Olympics just months way, who were the individuals tearing up the turf?
Perry Baker (USA)
Nicknamed the Pepperami Stick for his slight frame, in his second season, Baker has already passed 50 tries and is fifth in the all-time USA list. An elegant, rangy runner, with his buddy Carlin Isles on indoor track duty, he was arguably the fastest man in Vancouver and his 70m run down the flank against New Zealand had the crowd on their feet. Give him the outside channel and he’ll glide past you. Baker has a much-improved defence – typified by a double-tackle against France – and his all-round game stands up to scrutiny.
Henry Hutchison (Australia)
Small in stature and powerfully built Hutchinson is nicknamed ‘the pinball’ and only turned 19 last month but has a dynamo engine and can finish off tries. Hutchinson, who trained with the Brumbies in pre-season and is a fan of Matt Giteau, showed a powerful leg-drive to crawl over the line against New Zealand despite Gillies Kaka trying to hold him up. He showed his footballing skill, with a chip and collect for his try against Russia. Hutchinson is very highly regarded.
Kitione Taliga (Fiji)
While there are more celebrated Fijian Sevens stars on the circuit – Savenaca Rawaca and Jerry Tuwai spring to mind – Taliga was a late injury call-up to the Fiji squad and ended up taking away the Impact Player of the Tournament. The 22-year-old prison guard and cousin of flyer Samisoni Viriviri, Taliga is more of a languid runner, who is deceptively quick, notably outpacing the South Africa defence from 60m. Backs himself, his chip and collect was a speciality over the weekend.
Oscar Ouma (Kenya)
“Boom, there goes Ouma” was regulary splurted out by commentators over the weekend as the immensely powerful Kenyan left defenders as roadkill in his wake. Against New Zealand and Portugal, Ouma scored brilliant individual tries, and he introduced himself to Sonny Bill Williams earlier in the competition by smashing him into the turf. He crossed the 60-try mark in the tournament and possesses a jack-hammer fend. Approach with caution.
Tim Mikkelson (New Zealand)
Along with Liam Messam and DJ Forbes, skipper Mikkelson is one of the statesmen of the New Zealand Sevens side. Mike Friday, the ebullient USA coach, described him as one of the fittest guys on the circuit and a player who rarely makes mistakes. Mikkelson has the ability to slow the play down when needed, drifting laterally and waiting for the killer pass, or spotting the gap to power away (he has 170 Series tries). Along with DJ Forbes, he’s the glue that holds Tietjens’ boys together.
Seabelo Senatla (South Africa)
Just the seven tries in Vancouver for the 23-year-old from Stellenbosch, who has now scored 134 tries in 123 appearances for the Blitzbokke. Indeed, there are few finer sights in Sevens rugby than Senatla haring down the wing but he can also step and put in his defensive work. After a brief stint with the Stormers, few eyebrows will be raised if he makes a step into the 15-a-side game at some point.
Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa (Samoa)
A crowd favourite, if he’s not dabbing, Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa celebrates his tries by drawing an imaginary bow and firing it. Blessed with footwork that would make Fred Astaire green with envy, Hunapo-Nofoa’s dancing through the Kenyan defence on Day 1 brought gasps from the crowd.