The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series can be a relentless whirlwind of action. Two rounds down already and with just five months to cover the other eight global tournaments, 2017 will kick off with vigour in Wellington and undoubtedly end with thrilling drama in London. Before the HSBC Wellington Sevens begins on Saturday, we highlight five things we've learned so far.
1) South Africa look more ready than ever to take the series
Two tournaments down and already the Blitzboks have made two finals, winning the Cup in Dubai against Fiji 26-14, and losing a close final to England in Cape Town 19-17. They sit atop the series standings and have never looked more energised. A bronze medal at Rio 2016 and a fourth consecutive runner-up spot in the last series seems to have suitably motivated them to begin their 2016-17 series charge. Many would argue a bronze medal is success enough at an event like the Olympics, but South Africa have exacting standards.
It looks to be finally clicking for Neil Powell's outfit. Speedsters like Rosko Specman and Seabelo Senatla, combined with powerful forwards like Chris Dry and Werner Kok, produces an all-round sevens package. The question will be consistency: last year South Africa made four finals and won only one. To take the series, they have to convert their chances.
2) Fiji are in a rebuilding phase
Fiji have won one of the opening two rounds every year since 2011, taking three titles at the Gold Coast Sevens and two Dubai Sevens titles in that timeframe. 2016 was the first year they didn't take home some silverware, although they came pretty close in Dubai after losing narrowly to South Africa. After their gold medal success at Rio 2016 and back-to-back series titles under the leadership of Ben Ryan, expectations are high for Fiji. 2016 also proved a watershed moment for the Pacific island outfit. Players have moved over to 15s and Ryan has stepped down, with Gareth Baber coming in at the HSBC Wellington Sevens to manage his first tournament. There's plenty of change within Fiji, but they still remain one of the most naturally gifted sides on the series and an undisputable threat to all hoping to compete for the top spots.
3) England are in fine form
Under the guidance of head coach Simon Amor, England have had their best start in the opening two rounds of the series since 2011-12. England finished third in Dubai last year, beating Wales 38-10 in the bronze medal match, while in Cape Town they took the full 22 series points on offer after narrowly overpowering home side South Africa 19-17. Dan Norton is joint top try-scorer with Seabelo Senatla on 15 and the likes of Ruaridh McConnochie, Tom Mitchell and Richard de Carpentier are all in fine fettle heading into the HSBC Wellington Sevens. In Pool A they will face Kenya, Argentina and Papua New Guinea.
4) Fan appetite for the sport is ever increasing
Following the successful debut of rugby sevens at Rio 2016, there was a lot of talk about the Rio effect on the series. What has been clear after just two rounds is the positive impact the Olympics has made. In digital media and broadcast, reach and engagement is higher than ever. Vancouver was recently announced as a sell-out, and the first two rounds showed fantastic crowd numbers. The competitive nature of the sport continues to bring in fans and is taking the series from strength-to-strength.
5) The future is bright
The aim before Rio 2016 was to build medal-winning teams, however many squads are rebuilding already for next year's Commonwealth Games in Australia and Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco. New players are being brought through the ranks to compete on the world stage. Fiji, Wales and South Africa are just a few teams looking to blood new talent in Wellington, providing a launch pad for future stars of the game, such as Zain Davids (below), who will play for the Blitzboks at Wellington for the first time.