Determined Rush sets his sights on 2003 return

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2002, 12:00am

The Rush hour is not over. Beaten and broken yesterday, New Zealand captain Eric Rush did not discount the possibility of appearing at next year's Hong Kong Sevens. 'If I'm fit, I will be back,' Rush promised after New Zealand's 10-7 semi-final loss to Fiji. 'The Hong Kong Sevens is too much fun. I will see how I feel next year.'

One suspects that if New Zealand had ended on a winning note yesterday, it might have tempted Rush to voice his exit lines. But the 37-year-old Rush is still hanging on to his dream of one last hurrah at a tournament that has made him a legend. Having tasted success on five previous occasions in Hong Kong, Rush wants his hour to come around again so he can sign off on a triumphant note. Rush will now concentrate on leading New Zealand to a successful defence of their Commonwealth Games gold medal in Manchester in August.

Yesterday he ended disappointed and a broken man - having cracked his right wrist in the bruising battle with his old foes. He was replaced two minutes into the second half with Fiji leading 5-0. 'It is disappointing. We wanted to win this one, there is no doubt about that. Hong Kong is the big one,' said the evergreen Rush. He tried his best to lift the spirits of his team, but even he could not break the spirited defence of Fiji.

'We wanted to play a fast game but the conditions prevented us from doing that. Fiji played the conditions better and they lifted their game a couple of notches for Hong Kong. It was more the latter, because the weather was the same for everybody,' Rush said.

Kiwi coach Gordon Tietjens was pragmatic in defeat. 'We were beaten by the better team. Fiji took their opportunities and deserved to win,' Tietjens said. Tietjens said Fiji's tough defence was key to victory and picked Vili Satala as one of the outstanding players in the team. 'He is very strong in both defence and attack and has made a huge difference to the team.'

Satala, who was flown in from France to boost the Fiji team, was a tower of strength as he put in countless tackles with New Zealand struggling to find their feet. The writing was perhaps on the wall quite early in the day for the Kiwis as they struggled to post a 24-0 win over Argentina in the quarter-finals.

The scoreline was flattering. The Kiwis were unimpressive as they failed to secure ball at the breakdown. Argentina failed to capitalise and New Zealand moved into the semis for a clash of the titans. 'We started slowly as we were building up for Fiji. But everything changed once the rain started to come down,' saidd Tietjens.

Tietjens had been hoping to lead New Zealand to a third consecutive title in Hong Kong. But fired-up Fiji, treating it as a final, had their measure. Like Rush, Tietjens has also tasted success on five occasions in Hong Kong.