Five Rugby World Cup winners who rocked the Sevens circuit

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Sonny Bill Williams, Kwagga Smith and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Split with Sonny Bill Williams, Kwagga Smith and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

The lure of the 2024 Olympics in Paris has seen some notable stars, Frenchman Antoine Dupont and Australian Michael Hooper, trade the 15-man game for the more fast-paced Sevens format.

With all the excitement around that, Planet Rugby takes a look at notable Rugby World Cup winners who have represented their country in both forms of the game.


Kwagga Smith: One of the most versatile players in both forms of the game. The South African played for the Blitzboks between 2013 and 2017 during which time he collected a World Rugby Sevens Series win as well as a Commonwealth gold medal in 2014 and a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics.

Once making the shift to 15s, Smith quickly became a useful tool in Rassie Erasmus’ Springbok revival, with his versatility being one of the keys to fielding a 6-2 split on the bench. The loose forward lifted the 2019 World Cup and would only grow in importance as the Springboks won the 2021 British & Irish Lions series and another World Cup earlier this year with Smith in the squad. The superstar is one of the greatest Sevens converts there has ever been.

Cheslin Kolbe: The hot-stepping wing is one of the best in the 15s game but also spent time in Sevens between 2015 and 2016 where he contributed to the Blitzboks’ bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The faster format polished up his game and he was quickly back into 15s where he debuted in 2018 for the Springboks, swiftly becoming a superstar in green and gold. He scored a try in the 2019 World Cup final before going on to win the 2021 Lions series and 2023 World Cup in France earlier this year.

Kurt-Lee Arendse: The latest of three superstars from South Africa had his Sevens stints between 2019 and 2021 before committing to 15s with the Bulls. Almost immediately Arendse shone under Jake White, powering the Pretoria side to the United Rugby Championship final in the inaugural season that earned him higher honours. He took to Test rugby very quickly being nominated for Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2022 before playing a key role in the 2023 triumph. His strike rate is especially impressive at 13 tries in 15 games.

All Blacks

Sonny Bill Williams: The household name was known for his supreme offloading ability used across rugby league, rugby union and Sevens to great effect. His time on the circuit was not very extensive but he shone from the start, scoring with his first touch in Sevens. He would represent New Zealand in the fast format throughout 2016 including a showing at the Olympics where his team ultimately finished fifth. His influence on the 15s game is ever-lasting through the impact his offloads could bring to the game. He would go on to win the 2015 World Cup, putting himself amongst the greats.

Liam Messam: Much like Smith of South Africa, Messam earned his name on the Sevens circuit with his impressive engine and ability to combine physicality and mobility. Impressively captained his country at the age of 20 in 2004. Just two years later he would win Commonwealth Gold before winning it again in 2010. By then he had debuted for the All Blacks and would go on to grow in the 15s set-up, winning the 2015 World Cup.

READ MORE: The LEGENDARY list of two-time Rugby World Cup winners