Fresh from the Tokyo Olympics, international rugby sevens returned with a bang over back-to-back weekends in Canada with South Africa crowned champions of a shortened HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Great Britain winning both women’s Fast Four events.
Here is what the last fortnight taught us.
Form is temporary, class is permanent
Disappointed to not get anywhere near the podium in Tokyo, South Africa bounced back with brilliant performances in Vancouver and Edmonton.
Despite fielding a number of debutants, the Blitzboks were the standout team in both events and deservedly took the gold medal with some devastating attacking rugby that saw them break their record for tries in a Canada-based Series event one weekend (38 in Vancouver) and then break it again the next (39 in Edmonton).
Neil Powell’s side went through the two tournaments unbeaten and will go into the 2022 Series on the back of a 12-match winning streak.
Sevens fans still know how to party
With the Tokyo Olympics having to be played behind closed doors due to COVID-19 restrictions, rugby sevens fans have been starved of an opportunity to come together and party since the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 was brought to an abrupt halt in Vancouver in March 2002.
Fittingly, Vancouver was the venue where the Series resumed and while BC Place was operating at a limited capacity, the 15,000 or so spectators inside the stadium made their fair share of noise.
After an 18-month wait, all manner of fancy dress, from the usual animal-themed clothing to off-the-peg Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle costumes, was dusted off and worn with pride.
Then the party moved on to Edmonton for the first time in Series history and the crowd inside the Commonwealth Stadium definitely got the memo to dress to impress, with outfits brighter than the blue skies above.
Don’t discount the underdog
Given a rare opportunity to play on the Series as an invitation team, Germany got off to a slow start in Vancouver in losing to both Canada and USA.
However, they grew as the tournament progressed with convincing victories over Chile, Mexico and Jamaica, to finish in ninth place.
The impression was that there was still more to come from Damian McGrath’s side and that was borne out in Edmonton.
Having narrowly failed to take the scalp of core Series team, Ireland, losing 19-17, Germany produced the result of the weekend in their next match against Great Britain, tries from Marcel Coetzee and Anjo Buckman securing a famous 19-10 victory.
Through to their first-ever Series Cup quarter-final, Germany gave Vancouver silver medallists Kenya a run for their money before going down 24-17 and then they stunned USA in the fifth-place decider.
USA and Germany were inseparable at half-time (12-12) and full-time (19-19) but Chris Umeh won it for the Europeans with a try in sudden-death, extra-time.
‘The Buffalo’ is pure box-office
There were many superb individual performances at the HSBC Canada Sevens but the one player who consistently had everyone to their feet and put a smile on people’s faces was Alvin ‘the Buffalo’ Otieno.
Otieno scored four tries in both events, each of them celebrated in his own unique style, and set up countless others for his team-mates with his rampaging runs.
Perhaps the most outrageous moment was his heavyweight fend on Emilien Cabale on day one in Vancouver which sent the Spaniard flying backwards on his way to the try line and made the DHL Seven of the Best showreel.
Otieno was voted into both Dream Teams, a feat only matched by his team-mate, Jeffrey Oluoch.
Jasmine Joyce is the hottest ticket in town
As a Welsh player, Jasmine Joyce rarely gets to the play on the Series but a combined Great Britain team offered her that opportunity in Canada and she took it with both hands.
Every time the Bristol Bears player got the ball she looked like scoring. Defences were no match for the fleetness of foot and outright pace of Joyce, whose star rose even further in Canada on the back of a very good Tokyo Olympics.
Joyce scored six tries in Vancouver and 10 in Edmonton and was the player of the final in both, scoring a hat-trick in the latter event, as well as pulling off some amazing cover tackles in defence.