Broken leg brings All Black Rush's HK streak to end
After a record 13 consecutive appearances at the Hong Kong Sevens, New Zealand's Captain Fantastic Eric Rush will be sidelined for next month's Credit Suisse First Boston-sponsored tournament at the Hong Kong Stadium.
Coach Gordon Tietjens confirmed the worst fears of New Zealand fans yesterday when he revealed that his right-hand man Rush would miss the March 30-April 1 tournament through the injury picked up at last month's World Cup Sevens in Argentina.
'He will be out for six months. We will miss him badly, especially his leadership and the inspiration which he provides to the team,' said Tietjens.
The coach of the World Cup Sevens champions added: 'I will be bringing a completely new-look team to Hong Kong. There will be only a couple of players who have played before in Hong Kong in the team. It will be a young but exciting squad.'
Rush broke his leg in the preliminary round against England in Mar del Plata. 'He collided with a player and fractured his tibia. He didn't even have the ball in his hands when it happened,' said Tietjens.
At 36, the injury could well force Rush into retirement. But Tietjens was not ruling out the return of Rush, who is one of the best sevens players in the world.
'I won't rule him out of making a return next season. He has already told me that he wants to come back and play in the Commonwealth Games next year,' said Tietjens.
New Zealand will be defending their sevens crown at the Manchester Games and will be hoping that Rush is fit by then.
Their title defence in Hong Kong will however be led by Karl Tenana, the Best and Fairest Player last year. But Tietjens is praying that Tenana, too, won't be lost - to the Super 12s.
'He is contracted to the Chiefs and I hope I don't lose him, too. In Wellington last week, we only had three players who played n the World Cup. They were Tenana, Jonah Lomu and Jared Going. I had nine new players,' said Tietjens.
New Zealand were beaten by old rivals Fiji 19-17 in the Cup quarter-finals. A defeat which Tietjens is still fuming over. 'The decisive try which Fiji scored was from a blatant forward pass. The Australian referee let it go. Then with some 30 seconds to go, Jonah was tackled half-a-metre from the line. Despite that result, the team played well and I think they will do well in Hong Kong.' Lomu won't be around in Hong Kong. The Super 12 is preventing him from appearing here. But Rush is likely to make an appearance - as a TV or radio commentator.
Having led New Zealand in most of his 13 appearances here and having played in five Cup winning teams, including last year's 31-5 demolition of Fiji, Rush is virtually an icon of the Hong Kong Sevens.
His absence will be a big boost to New Zealand's rivals, especially Fiji who will be keen to make amends for losing their World Cup tag to them and also to make headway in this year's World Sevens Series race.
Tickets for the Hong Kong Sevens go on public sale today at 12 noon at shop 306, Exchange Square. Tickets can also be bought at the Hong Kong Stadium box office this weekend - and every other weekend - from 12 noon to 4pm, or on the Internet at www.hksevens.com.hk.