Hawke's Bay Magpie Ollie Sapsford's fun approach to rugby's shorter version has paid off big time with a call up to the All Black Sevens squad.
"Sevens to me is all about having a bit of fun over the summer," Sapsford, 24, said before last year's national tournament in Tauranga.
"That approach won't change because it helps my performance. Obviously I'm in a bit more of a professional environment now and, while a few tweaks need to be made, I will still keep that enjoyment factor," Sapsford said after his selection was announced.
A sevens prop and 15-a-side winger, Sapsford, has been based with the squad in Tauranga since January 10.
"I'm absolutely loving it. There were a couple of weeks when I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I was waking up at 3am wanting the training day to start," Sapsford recalled.
"I'm grateful for what everyone has done for me up here. The players are unreal and the management couldn't do more for you," Sapsford said.
"I've got a lot to learn. Now I'm in the squad the goal is to work hard for some game time on the circuit."
"All of my training has been at prop. I don't know if I'm fast enough to play on the outside at this level and I enjoy the physical stuff," Sapsford added.
Before Taradale's Sapsford played for Hawke's Bay at last year's National Sevens he had just one summer of sevens with Mid Canterbury, his home province, in 2016. That was only at regional tournament level as they didn't qualify for nationals.
Last year, Sapsford made 10 Mitre 10 Cup experiences for the Magpies in their 12-match programme. He also has an AFL background.
"Ollie played really well for Hawke's Bay at nationals and impressed when he came into train with the All Blacks Sevens Development squad. We're excited to have a winger that can play in the forwards who can be really physical and strong in the air," All Black Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw said.
Sapsford is the first Hawke's Bay player to be selected in the All Black Sevens squad since Napier Technical's Tamati Samuels played for the team in 2017.
Hawke's Bay Sevens coach Ellery Wilson was rapt with Sapsford's selection.
"I remember when we brought Ollie into our squad last year. He was really keen to learn and I was impressed with his physicality. The likes of Ollie and Tiaan Falcon lifted our standards at nationals."
Wilson pointed out Sapsford is the first Bay player to make the cut since he has been coaching the Bay side and it proved there is still a pathway in the Bay for players wanting to gain All Black Sevens selection.
Along with Sapsford, Auckland 18-year-old Kitiona Vai, the younger brother of former Blues outside back Melani Nanai, has been added to the All Black Sevens roster. They are among 25 players, including four Super players, who have been contracted in the buildup to the Olympics.
Vai, in his first year out of De La Salle College, turned heads in the winning Red Bull Ignite7 team at the end of last year.
"Kiti has genuine x-factor. It might take time for him to develop but we know he comes from good pedigree, his dad played for Manu Samoa and we have all seen the talent of his brother," Laidlaw added.