World Rugby Sevens Series 2015-16 review: The big three

As Sevens rugby goes from strength-to-strength, the 2015-16 World Series was the best yet with drama encapsulated in all ten legs

World Rugby Sevens Series 2015-16 review: The big three
Fiji celebrate their back-to-back Series titles (image source: Martin Seras Lima via

With the caveat of an Olympic medal on offer in Rio this Summer, the 2015-16 World Rugby Sevens Series was always likely to be full of thrills and spills, and it lived up to the billing. 

From the ten tournaments, there were six different winners, which culminated in Scotland's astonishing late, late victory over South Africa at Twickenham to bring the curtain down on the Series. 

Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand earmarked themselves as the teams to beat from early on in the campaign, with the trio claiming the coveted top three seedings for the Olympics. 

Fijian consistency lands them back-to-back Series titles

Ben Ryan's Fiji claimed the overall Series title for the second year on the bounce, after finishing ten points clear of nearest rivals South Africa

Having reached nine Cup semi-finals from the ten tournaments played, missing out only in Cape Town, the consistency shown by the Flying Fijians was a major factor in their overall victory. Tournament wins came in Dubai, Las Vegas and Hong Kong in a season which has made Fiji favourites for Gold in August. 

Jasa Veremalua in action in Las Vegas (image via: zimbio)

A large amount of the squad has travelled with the side throughout the ten legs, including Dream Team members Jasa Veremalua and inspirational captain, Osea Kolinisau, who fills in all over the backline. 

Once Fiji get ball-in-hand, they are a danger to score from anywhere on the pitch. The offloading ability of Pio Tuwai, Veremalua and Leone Nakarawa is up there with the best on the circuit, giving the likes of Jerry Tuwai and Kitione Taliga the opportunity to launch long counter-attacks. 

Savenaca Rawaca finished as the fourth leading try-scorer in the Series with 35, despite missing a couple of tournaments, with his replacements on the wing Viliame Mata and Masivesi Dakuwaqa filling in more than admirably. 

Ryan's job of picking a 12-man squad for the Olympics will be an incredibly tough one, with 15-a-side players Semi Kunatani, Nakarawa, Samisoni Viriviri and Josua Tusiova all impressing in their cameo performances on the Sevens Series this season. 

Jarryd Hayne's fleeting performances at Twickenham in the final leg of the Series will likely be too little too late to gain Olympic selection, yet the fact that he made the squad for London less than a week after retiring from the NFL shows his undoubted ability in this format of the game. 

Boks fall short when it matters most in a 'what could have been' campaign

Without doubt, Neil Powell and his South African players will look back on the 2015-16 season with mixed feelings. Despite finishing second on the overall ladder, the Blitzboks claimed just one tournament win in a season which had the potential for them to dominate and pick up many more titles. 

The home victory in Cape Town came in leg two of the season, meaning they failed to win any of the final eight legs despite coming close on a number of occassions. They suffered defeat in the Wellington and Vancouver finals at the hands of New Zealand, before letting slip a 26-15 lead in the London final against Scotland in the season-ender which summed up the majority of their campaign. 

Seabelo Senatla scoring one of his 66 tries this season (image via:

Seabelo Senatla was the star for Powell's side this term, notching a series leading 66 tries, which was 18 clear of his nearest rival Perry Baker from the United States. Once Senatla gets the ball in space you can almost guarantee five points for the South Africans, and he was rewarded with a spot on the season Dream Team alongside teammate Kwagga Smith

Cecil Afrika, Rosko Specman and Justin Geduld are the trio of playmakers Powell will be relying on to spark something out in Rio behind a strong forward pack led by the experienced faces of Philip Snyman and Kyle Brown. 

Bryan Habana would be a surprise Olympic selection after dipping his toes in the Sevens water this season, with other 15-a-side players Ryan Kankowski and Francois Hougaard more likely candidates for Rio following extended spells on the Sevens circuit this season. 

Highs and lows crammed into transitional Kiwi season

Sir Gordon Teitjens men enjoyed as many tournament victories as the Fijians this season, picking up three trophies in Wellington, Vancouver and Sydney thanks to a new wave of Kiwi talent. 

Comfortably finishing third on the overall standings, 22 points clear of fourth-placed Australia, the season endured as many low points as it did the tournament-winning highs, and with all eyes on the Olympics, New Zealand used more players than any other side this season (29) as they look for the perfect combination ahead of Rio. 

15-a-side players Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam and Agustine Pulu all took a season out from Super Rugby to concentrate on Sevens (when injury allowed), and will each be in strong contention for the final 12 heading to Rio. 

The Ioane brothers in Wellington, Rieko (left) and Akira (right), image via:
The Ioane brothers in Wellington, Rieko (left) and Akira (right), image via:

Young brothers Rieko and Akira Ioane each took time off from the Blues to take part in four legs of the Sevens Series, taking the circuit by storm, with Rieko grabbing ten tries in London. At 19 and 20 respectively, Rieko and Akira look set to play a huge role for the All Blacks over the next decade, but this Summer their sights are solely on winning an Olympic medal. 

Behind the new faces are a group of experienced Sevens players, who always come to the fore when the Kiwis are at their best. The performances of Gillies Kaka, Tim MikkelsonKurt Baker and DJ Forbes were crucial in the Vancouver final victory over the Boks, and the four of them were amongst the first names on the teamsheet when fit. 

Kurt Baker celebrates with his famous thumbs up following a try in Hong Kong (image via:

Sam Dickson was also incredible in the Vancouver triumph before suffering a season-ending injury, which may still rule him out of the Olympics, with Wellington hero Joe Webber suffering a similar fate earlier in the season. Lewis Ormond and Regan Ware were two of the men to benefit, putting in standout performances down the stretch which should improve their chances of inclusion for Rio.