Kiwis to be at their best, says Rush

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 February, 1998, 12:00am

New Zealand, who are gunning for their seventh Hong Kong Sevens title, will be at their best in terms of preparation for the March 27-29 tournament, according to captain Eric Rush.

But to turn the side into a virtually unbeatable outfit, Rush is hoping that giant All Black winger Jonah Lomu will be able to take time off from Super 12 duties for Auckland.

'The squad for this year's Hong Kong Sevens will be the best as far as preparation is concerned and I know we will do well even without the stars,' said Rush, who was special guest at yesterday's press conference to announce the new sponsor.

'But I hope Lomu will be back. He has said that he wants to come. It will all depend on whether Auckland will release him from his Super 12 contract,' added Rush.

The New Zealand Rugby Football Union contracted 20 players in December, including Rush, for the seven-a-side game this season. None of the Super 12 players is included in this contract.

This has allowed coach Gordon Tietjens time to mould together a formidable unit. Rush and company have already played in three international sevens tournaments this year - two in South America and last weekend's Sydney Sevens - and won them all.

'In the past we used to get together only a couple of weeks before the Hong Kong Sevens. This time we will have been together for three months. We will be well prepared,' said Rush.

Rush, 32, will be making his 10th appearance at the Hong Kong Sevens. He has appeared in eight finals, winning four of them in 1989, 1994, 1995 and 1996 with the last three as captain. He also led New Zealand at the World Cup Sevens last year.

Rush said apart from winning the Hong Kong Sevens, the target would be to win a gold medal at September's Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

New Zealand, grouped with Korea, USA and Singapore in the preliminary round, also play debutants China in a couple of practice matches.