New Zealand look to pick themselves up after Melbourne success

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2006, 12:00am

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens admitted yesterday that his side had already achieved their main goal for the season after they won the Commonwealth Games last week in Melbourne - for once Hong Kong was not the priority.

Unlike other occasions where all the talk was about winning here, New Zealand had their eyes set on glory in Melbourne.

Timing as much as anything was the reason.

As soon as it became known that the Commonwealth Games Sevens was happening just two weeks before the SAR showpiece, it was always going to change the focus for some teams.

'Mentally these past few weeks has been very tough knowing that you're building towards a Commonwealth Games and not knowing exactly who the players are you're going to have available for that. To win it was a great achievement,' Tietjens said.

'It's fair to say that we'd underperformed in the IRB World Sevens Series [WSS] up until then but we were always building towards the Commonwealth Games.

'Even though we won it, it was a very mentally and physically draining time for us. It's hard to pick yourself up after winning a tournament like that.

'Its difficult to motivate ourselves again to the same level as we had in Melbourne, especially as we have a new set of players. The challenge for me now is getting the players to gel together as a team.'

Tietjens' side are nowhere near as strong as the one who played in the Commonwealth Games, with the six Super 14 players he had available to him then now back with their Super 14 clubs.

Competition favourites England and Fiji will arrive in the SAR with the majority of the team who played in Melbourne.

But while England spent the day shopping in Shenzen yesterday, Tietjens was putting his new recruits through their paces in the rain at So Kon Po.

They may have already achieved their main goal for the season but going by this strenuous workout they aren't here just to make up the numbers either.

'We know that if we are to get back into contention in the WSS we have to do well in Hong Kong, and we certainly want to do that,' Tietjens said.

'Winning in Melbourne took a lot of doing and getting ourselves up for Hong Kong won't be easy, but that's where having a new bunch of players to work with actually is a positive thing for us.

'We have a group of young players raring to go who missed out on the Commonwealth Games and who want to make up for that.

'It's an exciting challenge for them and they are all looking forward to it. I'd be very disappointed if we don't play well,' said Tietjens.

New Zealand: Charles Baxter, Edwin Cocker, DJ Forbes, Craig Hudson, Nigel Hunt, Tafai Ioasa, Cory Jane, Lachie Munro, Hayden reid, Lote Raikabula, Alando Soakai, Dwayne Sweeney.