Perhaps one of the brightest spots in the USA 7s team in Las Vegas was the play of Pono Haitsuka, who in just a few short months has gone from slight-but-speedy to an athlete who can stand up to the physical rigors of the Sevens World Series.
Haitsuka was quite snappy at scrumhalf and made some impressive tackles, as well as scoring tries born out of his eagerness to play smart support rugby.
For the Oregon State Beaver, the game is starting to make sense.
"It's been a blur, everything's happened so fast, you know," Haitsuka told RUGBYMag.com. "Four months ago me and the new guys were playing in college. We were nobodies. And now we're playing on the biggest stage. It's gone by really quick."
During that time, Haitsuka has worked to improve. He also looks bigger, as he has taken advantage of the everyday training environment at the Olympic Training Center. He certainly looks strong.
"It's just training, trying to put on muscle," he said. The result has been that he is more imposing in contact.
Still the fast, elusive player who can beat many on the circuit one-on-one, Haitsuka has learned to let the ball do the talking, as well.
"I'd say I'm getting a little more comfortable in my spot," Haitsuka said. "It's been a learning curve for me, but the guys make it easier. [In Vegas] we've been about sticking together and staying strong through everything. That's what we did [on Sunday]."
Looking ahead to Wellington, the Eagles have Argentina, Canada, and Scotland in their pool. For the second tournament in a row, they avoid some of the big names such as New Zealand, South Africa, and Fiji.
The USA kicks off against Argentina at 4:21pm Pacific Time on Thursday (7:21pm Eastern Time). Then they take on Canada at 6:48pm PT/ 9:48pm ET, and finish Day One against Scotland at 9:56pm PT/ 12:56am ET (Friday morning).