World Rugby commentator Karl Tenana was a star of the rugby sevens circuit as a player for many a year before embarking on a successful career in broadcasting.
During his time on the pitch, Tenana won the Rugby World Cup Sevens, multiple HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series titles, and a gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, playing with and against some of the game’s greatest players.
Even with his first-hand experience, though, Tenana admits selecting an all-time sevens team was no easy task.
In the end, he went for an all-southern hemisphere line-up, featuring three fellow New Zealanders, a Fijian, a Samoan, and one player apiece from South Africa and Argentina.
Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)
Jonah Lomu is a given. I was lucky enough to play with and against him and sevens is an environment that he thrived in right from the get-go. Everyone knew after he exploded onto the scene in Hong Kong that we had someone special on our hands. I think sevens just really suited his skill set. Obviously, a man that big and fast is going to draw in multiple defenders.
Eric Rush (New Zealand, captain)
For me, Eric Rush is an automatic pick because he was such a big part in making New Zealand Sevens so successful. He is synonymous with sevens, with all those medals in Hong Kong, and is probably the best captain I’ve ever seen. He had this ability to get players to play above the level they even knew they could perform themselves, as well as obviously being a class player himself.
Frankie Horne (South Africa)
You always need someone on your team who will go into the dark places. For me, he is the ‘rough and tough’ guy who’ll do the dirty work – hitting rucks and things like that – that enables others to shine. People always talk about the wide passes and playing width, but you’ve still got to get go-forward in any game. He had such a low centre of gravity and a hard drive after contact, and that was probably the secret of his success.
Uale Mai (Samoa)
Uale was an extremely intelligent player, a chess master who could put all the right pieces in place and read all the twists and turns before they’d even occurred. I played against him a lot of times and always admired how he controlled the game. He didn’t necessarily score a lot of tries himself, but he was responsible for putting tries on a plate for others.
Waisale Serevi (Fiji)
Like Rush, Waisale Serevi is an automatic pick. We’re great friends now but he is a very different beast when you play against him. What a lot of people don’t realise is that he was actually a very good all-round player, the complete player. We always speak about his attack – the explosiveness over his first two or three steps and the fact that one minute he was there and one minute he was gone – but he was very difficult to get past as a defensive sweeper as well. To win Hong Kong Player of the Tournament five times, you have got to be doing something pretty good.
Christian Cullen (New Zealand)
I played with Christian from schoolboy level. I think he is one of the best All Blacks to have played the game in the number 15 jersey, but he was also a very, very good sevens player. He admits himself if they’d have had the same pay packet back then as they do now, he’d have played sevens, because he loved it so much. A real strength of his was that he could step and not lose pace, whereas some people have to change down a gear if they want to change direction. He was also quite powerful despite being quite a slight bloke, one of the most powerful blokes in rugby at the time. Also, he was lethal when he decided to change defence into attack.
Santi Gomez Cora (Argentina)
He was the first player to get 200 tries on the world series and that speaks volumes for him. I reckon he probably scored 200 around me! He was only a slight player but one who had multiple ways of scoring. One of the things I remember is his chip-and-chase, it was a really good skill to have at the time. He was also quick on the outside and elusive on the edge. If he wasn’t scoring himself, he was distributing the ball to players inside him and creating opportunities for them.