Not many rugby players can make a successful transition from Sevens to the full 15-man game. Many who excel on one stage tend to struggle on the other, but there have been a handful of players who’ve not only made the jump, but become some of the best players in the world. We’ve rounded up 5 players who made the leap from the Sevens arena to become international superstars.
While Warren Whiteley became known as the fearless captain of the Lions, leading the team to two Super Rugby finals, along with captaining the Springboks on a few occasions, the lanky loose forward initially made a name for himself in the Sevens circuit with the Blitzboks. Part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games winning team, Whiteley made a successful transition to the international stage in the 15-man game and had some standout performances before being forced into retirement with injury.
Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell established himself as one of the best finishers in the game during his career, and while the speedster made his mark for the Reds, Western Force, Waratahs, and eventually Toulon, the elusive back began his professional senior career with the Australian Sevens side back in the 2002/2003 season after representing the Wallabies at U19 level. While many Australian names are thrown around when it comes to the best of the best, Mitchell is one of those players that deserves far more credit than he gets.
Kwagga Smith became an important cog in the Springbok Sevens machine during their height and dominance during the 2013–2017 era, and even won a gold medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Smith eventually dabbled in both codes before becoming a more prominent feature in the Lions’ Super Rugby side. His standout performances earned him a spot in the Springbok squad in 2018, which saw him participate in the 2019 Rugby World Cup and bag himself a winner’s medal.
Ardie Savea is a true representation of a successful sevens-to-fifteens convert. The incredibly quick loose forward made his impact on the Sevens scene with the All Blacks Sevens, competing in eight tournaments, while also applying his trade with the Hurricanes in Super Rugby. Savea ended up making the All Blacks squad and becoming a staple in the team, and has led out the New Zealand side as captain against the Wallabies in 2021.
Arguably the most famous sevens star who has transitioned to 15s is that of Cheslin Kolbe. The winger exploded onto the scene with the Springbok Sevens team, becoming notorious as one of the most dangerous sidesteppers on the circuit and being a part of the Commonwealth Games winning side alongside Kwagga Smith and Warren Whiteley. Kolbe began playing with the Stormers before heading abroad to Toulon where he become a rugby superstar before being pulled into the Springbok squad. While there were some doubters about his ability to transition to the international stage, but Kolbe exceeded all expectations and has become one of the best players in the world.