DURBAN – With the World Sevens Series having kicked off for a new season this month, many would have had their eyes on the likes of the defending champion Blitzboks, the ever present Kiwi-threat, and of course the powerful Fijians.
However, after two rounds of action, in Dubai and Cape Town, it is the United States who sit atop the standings with 38 points. Chasing the traditionally rugby-shy nation are the usual heavy hitters like New Zealand, South Africa, England and Fiji.
While it may be surprising for many, it cannot be unexpected, as this has been a long time coming for the resource flush US. As a sporting nation, or as a nation in general, the US has always been “go big or go home” and with rugby finally reaching a point where it is no longer a bit of fun, the US are flexing their potential muscle.
The US have constructed themselves to play a brand of Sevens which is classically quite simple, but in its basics, highly effective. They have also taken an approach to player incubation which has seen them taken near super humans and turn them into rugby heroes.
The likes of sprinters Carlin Isles and Perry Baker are pure try machines, given the space and ground they are afforded in this shortened version of the game. Through years of persistence and patience, the two speedsters have been able to take their raw running talent and couple it with the nuances of the game - devoid of the 15-man code, which is important.
Additionally, they have poached from their major contact sort, American football, and produced steamrollers like Nate Ebner and coupled him with bruisers like Danny Barrett. The intentional building of their team to have all the bases covered, to use a baseball term, is finally paying off.
The speed of their wings, the power of their forwards, as well as their globalised pool of players that incorporates a lot of players with Pacific Islander heritage, like Maka Unufe and Faitala Talapusi, have given them the flair that is so obvious from the Islanders in the Sevens game.
“Hopefully we can attract a new audience and more of the sporting eyeballs in America”@USARugby head coach @MikeFriday09 on his side’s position at the top of the #HSBC7s after two rounds pic.twitter.com/gTcb51heeH— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) December 11, 2018
What is also key to their emergence at the top of the current standings is that the US certainly has a Sevens first approach to rugby, something that no other nation really has. Sevens has taken a lot more prominence, and has removed itself to be a free-standing sport across the globe in the last few years, but the US has always been putting maximum effort into growing their Sevens team.
The sleeping giant of American Sevens is starting to awaken, and while it will probably still be a while before they are taking home the spoils from the entire series, there is no doubt that they will be a contender this year, opening up the pool of top teams and keeping them on their toes.@DarrynJack216