The HSBC Rugby Sevens tournament is coming to Los Angeles for the grand finale of the 2021-22 series, and a championship is on the line for the men’s side.
South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Fiji are all in position to win the series championship depending on how the tournament plays out. South Africa, though, will claim the series title no matter what if they win in Los Angeles.
For Fiji and South Africa, it’s familiar territory. Both nations are among the top winners in World Sevens Series history, but which country has the best sevens team?
Let’s dig into the top five of all-time:
1. New Zealand
When it comes to the most dominant country in rugby sevens history, it has to start with New Zealand. Since the World Sevens Series began in 1999-2000, the All Blacks have lifted the title a record 13 times. No other country has more than four. In the World Cup Sevens, which has been hosted every four years since 1993, New Zealand has won three times, the most among all nations. The same applies to the Commonwealth Games (played every four years since 1998), where New Zealand has the most first-place finishes with five. South Africa is the only other country to win a first-place medal in that competition, doing so twice.
The All Blacks have set a high standard when it comes to winning in sevens competitions, and though they haven’t enjoyed a dominant spell in the World Sevens Series since the 2013-14 year (they also missed the first four tournaments of the series in 2021-22 due to COVID-19 restrictions), they’re still a threat to win every single competition they’re in.
Next up is an island not too far from New Zealand: Fiji. The Flying Fijians have definitely been flying this past decade, as their dominance in the sport has ascended with their flashy, pass-first style of play. Fiji endured numerous second and third-place finishes in the World Sevens Series when New Zealand won eight of the first nine competitions (Fiji won the other in 2005-06), but it has won three since 2014-15.
But perhaps Fiji’s biggest accomplishment on the sevens stage came in the Olympics. It won the first ever rugby sevens tournament in an Olympic setting in Rio in 2016 and defended its gold medal in Tokyo in 2021. Jerry Tuwai played in both and is the only player in rugby history to win two gold medals. Fiji also has two World Cup Sevens wins (1997, 2005) on its resume, along with one of, if not the, best sevens player of all time in Waisale Serevi.
3. South Africa
Like Fiji, South Africa has always been in the mix when it comes to winning sevens competitions. The Springboks’ history is more recent, too, as they’ve won the World Sevens Series four times since 2016-17 and added a second-place result in 2019-20. South Africa is tied with Fiji with four wins all-time in the competition, but it does not have a World Cup title to its name.
South Africa finished with a bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and has won the Commonwealth Games twice, including recently in 2022. As aforementioned, a win in Los Angeles would make it five World Sevens Series wins for the Springboks, breaking their second-place tie with Fiji. Still, Fiji’s results in bigger competitions would be enough to maintain second place.
The first three teams are pretty straightforward, but ranking the remaining nations after that gets pretty tricky since New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa are the triumvirate in the sport. England arguably has the strongest case for the fourth spot, though, given its performances in the competitions. England has never won a World Sevens Series, but it won the first ever World Cup in 1993 as its premier title.
Apart from that, first-place finishes have been difficult to come by. England has finished second in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, 2013 and 2018 World Cups and has nine top-three finishes in the World Sevens Series, trailing only New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa in that regard. It finished second four times in the competition, most recently in 2016-17. The England squad also competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics as Great Britain, along with players from Wales and Scotland, but finished second after falling to Fiji 43-7 in the gold medal game.
Oceania teams have dominated this list as Samoa rounds out the top five. It’s the only other nation not named New Zealand, Fiji or South Africa with a World Sevens Series win to its name, earning it in 2009-10. Manu Samoa has three top-three finishes in the competition, tied for fifth all-time with Australia. Beyond that, Samoa has two bronze medals from the Commonwealth Games (1997, 2009). Samoa won’t be able to win the 2021-22 series, however, after missing the first three tournaments due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Australia, United States, Argentina