Samu Kerevi has been given no guarantees of Olympic Sevens selection but coach Tim Walsh is hopeful the Wallabies centre can adjust his aerobic system in quick time and be a role player for Australia in Tokyo.
Kerevi recently cleared quarantine and has joined Australia's sevens squad in Sydney, the former Queensland Reds skipper one of 13 players named for the team's final hit-out in Townsville, a round-robin series with defending Olympic champions, Fiji, as well as New Zealand and an Australian Barbarians team.
Walsh will then name his squad for the Olympics on Jul. 2, giving Kerevi roughly three weeks to impress the Australian team management.
The two men have however been in dialogue for some time, with the gold medal winning coach from Rio having planted the Olympic seed in Kerevi's mind while he was away in Japan at Suntory.
"We had a chat earlier through the Top League season and it was just chat at that point, but then towards the end I really knuckled down about coming over and I just want to contribute to the team for this year's Olympics. So it's been a blessing really," Kerevi told reporters on Thursday.
"I got out last Thursday and came straight into camp, I'm finishing off my rehab and the team's been awesome, they've been really welcoming and Walshy's done a great job with the culture, the boys really get around each other. It's been good."
Best remembered from his Wallabies days for running straight over the top of Beauden Barrett in a rare Australian Bledisloe win, in Perth in 2019, it's Kerevi's ability to break tackles and find an offload that Walsh has again identified as being a potentially vital addition to his OIympic squad.
"You look at opportunities, and through COVID, he was someone who came up, Samu was always on the radar and Suntory have been really helpful and cooperative in making it happen, firstly with Seany McMahon and now with Samu," Walsh said.
"And what our team, not lacks, but he complements it with his skills and that's why he was targeted by us. Being a world-class player, but then looking at our squad and what we could use or have [in a position] where we had not so much depth in.
"His power-running, his experience, his offload and just by virtue of having a player of his calibre, it just changes the dynamic of the squad a bit which is great. He's had a big impact right away.
"But there's no guarantees that he's going to be picked, there's still a fair bit to go. But so far it's very very promising."
The greatest challenge Kerevi seemingly has to face is transitioning his aerobic system from a 15s player to that which is required on the sevens field.
And that's why Walsh is targeting a specific role for Kerevi, suggesting he would look to use him in short bursts.
"That's probably the biggest thing and you look at all players that are coming across is how quickly they can do it [change fitness requirements]," Walsh said of the transition. "I think sevens to 15s is easier than 15s to sevens but again that's up to me around how I use him.
"Am I going to use him as 14-minute player, playing in every game? No. He's going to have a role and that's what was sort of designated way back when we spoke about it. Is this something that you reckon you could do and add value to the team? And then if so, let's start the conversations and give it a crack.
"So yeah it's very to be difficult to do that. Is the time allowing him to do that? No. But is the time allowing him to have an impact that could be of benefit to us? Yes."
Despite the short space of time in which he has to prepare his body for the fast-paced nature of sevens, Kerevi says his recent season in the Japanese Top League was actually reasonable preparation despite admitting he had at times played at a heavier weight than ever.
"I was actually playing heavier, I was trying to have a point-of-difference in Japan because a lot of those guys, the backs, are around 90 or just under 100 [kilos] and I was playing 113/114 and felt good because we run so much and you eat really well over there; they're [Suntory] feeding us three times a day," Kerevi explained.
"I would fluctuate and I started off at the start of the season really high, like 110/112 [kilos], and then dropped it through the middle [part of the season] and was just playing with my weight to see how I felt out there and the program allows me to do that. I just felt good.
"Definitely I want to play as light as I can [in sevens], just to stay light on my feet, I'm just working hard on that now. But it's more the running load I want to get, like Walshy said he's not expecting me to play 14 minutes."
Walsh admitted he was close to finalising his squad but players would have one final chance to push for selection with standout performances in Townsille. That includes Western Force back-rower Tim Anstee who is in the Australian squad, and Waratahs fullback Jack Maddocks, should be overcome a hand injury and get some time with the Australian Barbarians in North Queensland.
"We played New Zealand four weeks ago and that was part of preparation and this one's the next level up and we've got different opposition in Fiji, New Zealand and Australian Barbarians team," Walsh said.
"So as you get closer [to the Olympics] the pressure increases; the selections are starting to solidify; it's a big piece of the puzzle in terms of our preparation. But there are some things that are, objectively, not around the outcome, it's more around getting ourselves ready for the Olympics."