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Ian Muir photos

Speed is the name of the game in 7s, and Bryan Habana knows all too well its power. In his first touch in over a decade’s absence from the circuit, the man who has been asked to race a Cheetah found himself in an all too familiar position – the try zone.

While Habana has been the king of speed in the rugby world for the last decade, he is playing with and against the new faces of pace in 7s rugby. His teammate Seabelo Senatla tallied a bevy of tries on Friday and is quickly becoming one of the best players on the circuit.

“Seabelo Senatla what a man. It is going to be really exciting watching this youngster go from strength to strength,” Habana said of the rising star. “We saw (him) getting five tries today and I wouldn’t be giving him the outside gap either.”

Habana went on to praise the talent of Carlin Isles and Perry Baker, both of which he and Senatla will take on in the final game of pool play tomorrow. For Habana, he is excited to be back in the States after 12 years away, having played in the 2004 USA Sevens in Los Angeles. The presence of rugby in the United States has grown tremendously in his eyes, adding to the prospect of playing against these Eagles.

“The game has grown quite a bit through the likes of Carlin Isles and Perry Baker and these guys are household names in America,” added Habana. “I have had a couple of chats with Carlin over the last year-and-a-half when he tried to make a transition into 15s. I think that his dedication and the way that he has inspired a new generation of people in America has been absolutely phenomenal. Also, a guy like Perry Baker who also used his opportunity to the best of his ability.”

Now as a veteran, Habana still relies on his legs but indicated that a changing of the guard is occurring. “This whole circuit is unbelievable. Coming in I was wishing I was going to be in the top 50 percent speed wise but 12 years later it is a little bit different,” said Habana.

Habana’s legendary speed may be not be the same as it was 12 years ago, but the lore of it still is. For new speedsters like Baker, the comparison is inevitable.

“When I first came into the rugby and stuff, I was fast, so they would always tell me about people who were fast. They told me about Habana and even Dan Norton, so I always checked those guys out and everything. I can’t get starstruck about who is on the opponent’s side, but definitely respect whoever is across from me,” Baker said.

So tomorrow everyone will see newcomer versus veteran and rising star versus rising star. Who knows what will happen, but one thing is guaranteed – there will be speed.