On the HSBC SVNS 2024 series there are athletes who make mere mortals weep when it comes to rugby sevens.
But what if we were to extract the best bits and build the perfect men's sevens player in a hypothetical SVNS laboratory? What would they look like?
It’s a physical game but the wise among us know that sport is 90 per cent mental. A brain wired for the most intense sport on the planet needs to be able to make accurate, quick decisions under pressure. That player needs to see what's unfolding before it has happened.
The player with the ultimate synapses for sevens is Akuila Rokolisoa. We are putting his brain in our creation so he can pull the strings the way he has for New Zealand for years.
From the head, to the toes. Footwork might be the toughest category to pick from because HSBC SVNS 2024 is overflowing with fancy feet.
The players who work best in their dancing shoes use change of direction and change of tempo to wrong-foot defenders. However, footwork is essential on the defensive side of the ball as well; getting in close enough to wiley attackers so you can stick a shot is a super skill.
The man sidestepping into our set up is Selvyn Davids. His ability to change direction on a sixpence and bamboozle defenders makes his footwork a must have.
Our player needs an engine. And whilst this engine needs to run and run, it also needs to pack some power. A good sevens player will have the ability to repeat powerful movements time and time again across the 14 minutes.
When it comes to power, the Samoan squad might be the top dogs with the likes of Vaovasa Afa Sua and Taunu’u Niulevaea.
For me, however, one man gives us the most solid foundation to our player building blocks – and his name is Luciano González.
His raw power repels defenders when he carries the ball for Argentina and we send prayers to any attackers that stray into his vicinity when he is defending.
Scoring tries is only possible when you have the ball. That is why kick-off time is a key focus of sevens. We need someone with the aerial prowess of a peregrine falcon, the hops of a hare, a high-prancing impala.
Harry Glover can be found flying through the SVNS skies retrieving kick-offs for Great Britain. He has hands like shovels which helps him pluck the ball from the air and he can be a go-to guy in key kick-off moments.
Glover’s one-handed carrying antics could have landed him in our next category as well, the expert offload. However, who better to serve our sevens superstar with offloading ability than a player who possesses this style of playing ball in their blood, Fijian forward Sevuloni Mocenacagi?
Slipping the ball to a support runner with a masterful sleight of hand, Mocenacagi is a true offloading magician.
Whether it’s restarts and conversions, or grubbers and chip kicks, we need a man with the Messi touch. Games are frequently decided by conversions made or missed, so a sharp shooter is vital. Dietrich Roache could have contributed to any aspect of our star – but he is going to lend us his left foot.
The reason we are only taking his left foot is it leaves room for someone else’s right. I am going to take the sweet right peg of Marcos Moneta for the attacking kicks because he plays like he has the ball on a string.
Having this in the armoury is essential for top-tier try scorers. ‘The money man’ possesses the South-American soccer skills for the job.
Top-end running speed is the modus operandi for the game of rugby sevens. Let’s be honest, every single player on the circuit is fast. But there is good pace and there is sprinter speed. With the additional space on the sevens pitch the old adage rings true; ‘there is no substitute for speed’.
Our whippet, our roadrunner, the sevens version of ‘the Flash’ is Jordan Conroy.
When space opens up so does the Irish winger, kicking into top gear in milliseconds. Capable of clocking 37km/h and a true racecar, Conroy supplies the speed.
Even with the more tangible components complete, our perfect men’s sevens player still wouldn't be whole until we sprinkle in character traits which might be the most important ingredients for the toughest sport on the planet.
How do you measure them? I don't know. But somehow there are players who seem like they want it that bit more than everybody else; they chase back, they make tackle after try-saving tackle, they come up with clutch scores.
One player who has the ‘never say die’ desire to do it when it matters most is Kiwi veteran Tim Mikkelson. To still be grafting at 37 and after 507 matches means his fire is fuelled by strong stuff.
In a similar vein, ever-present Frenchman Jonathan Laugel sums up what it means to be a workhorse of the game.
Every player needs to work hard in this sport, but some have it in them to go again and again for 14 minutes, six times a weekend, eight times a season, year after year. Making his debut in 2012 and still going strong 11 years later, the staying-power of Laugel is a secret ingredient all top players hope for.
And that completes our super-powered player. Writing this has indulged my Frankenstein fantasy but there is nothing mythical about the subjects mentioned here.
They exist, in the flesh, and you can watch them run out in Cape Town this weekend.
By Tom Mitchell