These players border on the superhuman, blending awesome physicality with technical excellence and mental guile, while under extreme pressure and lung-burning, sense-scrambling fatigue.

As the revamped HSBC SVNS 2024 circuit reaches its halfway point, there are juicy narratives aplenty and new luminaries emerging. And here are four headline acts.

Antoine Dupont

Need we say more? The transition of the greatest rugby player on earth from 15s to sevens is beyond captivating. Dupont has the talent and determination to thrive in the abbreviated format, with his boundless skill set matched by a physical dynamism which considerably outstrips his stature.

This was feted as a seminal 12 months for Dupont; a Rugby World Cup to be won and an Olympics to claim on home soil. The pain of the quarter-final exit still seems to be tearing at France as they labour through the early rounds of the Men's Six Nations 2024. Dupont, the poster boy of French rugby, could salve his personal wounds with top spot on the Olympic podium come July.

All that is some way off. France have enormous challenges to overcome between now and then. And Vancouver will be Dupont’s curtain-raising event on what he hopes will be the road to gold. The upshot should be fascinating.

Andrew Knewstubb

For close to two years, rugby was taken from Andrew Knewstubb. The New Zealander ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament not once but twice, and was hospitalised again with an infection following one of his surgeries.

These have been bleak times. Knewstubb, understandably, questioned whether he’d ever get back to the sport he loves. At last, 22 months after his previous outing on the series, he has been named in the All Blacks Sevens squad for Vancouver and Los Angeles.

Incredibly fit, quick, and agile, Knewstubb is a box-office player. While it would be wrong to expect wonders from him after so long out, whatever happens, this will be the sweetest of returns.

Maddison Levi

A truly supreme athlete who could become a generational talent. Maddison Levi stands close to 6ft tall, squats almost 200kg, and runs like a gazelle. 

She scored a record-shattering 57 tries in 42 games on last year’s series and is already up to 21 this season. In her previous venture as a budding Australian rules star, she set new AFLW draft combine benchmarks in the 20m sprint and vertical jump. 

Oh, and she’s only 21. Despite being suspended for Australia's opening two Pool B matches, she is guaranteed to make a mark in Vancouver for a brilliant team.

Sophie de Goede

An iconic figure returns home. Sophie de Goede is one of the game’s brightest lights, a World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year nominee in 2022 and giant of the 15s scene. A goal-kicking back-row, she is currently top of the Premiership Women's Rugby points chart with Saracens.

De Goede helped Canada qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 last year, but has yet to grace this particular SVNS tournament. Securing her services is a major fillip for coach Jack Hanratty, and the home crowd.

Take part in all of the on- and off-field action in Vancouver with the HSBC SVNS Predictor Game. Making team and player predictions throughout each weekend, gain points based on their performance and compete against rugby sevens fans from across the world on the global leaderboard.