Hong Kong Sevens

Tietjens happy to rely on veterans

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2012, 12:00am

D.J. Forbes has been to Hong Kong so many times he joked yesterday it might be better if he had a permanent home here. It's no joke he has won a permanent place in Hong Kong Sevens folklore as a leader who does all his talking where it matters - on the pitch.

And New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens is grateful for that.

'I have a fantastic leader in D.J. who just leads by the way he plays,' Tietjens said soon after the Kiwis finished yesterday's training session at So Kon Po. 'He demands a lot of respect among all the teams and he leads the team right from the front.

'He is such an inspiration to the other players and is one of the contributing factors in why my team is winning at the moment,' Tietjens added. New Zealand, who top the HSBC Sevens World Series standings, have won two legs, and reached four out of five finals.

But Forbes' leadership skills will be tested to the limits this weekend with seven of the 12-man squad appearing for the first time in Hong Kong. Of this number, only one - Lolagi Visinia - will be winning his first sevens cap this season with the other six having played at one point or another this season.

Forbes, Tomasi Cama, Lote Raikabula, Bryce Heem and Tim Mikkelson are old hands at the stadium, and Tietjens believes they will all have to play a huge role in being a calming influence on the rest.

'Hong Kong brings with it different pressures, certainly for the new guys. The prestige of the tournament, the massive atmosphere at the ground, the fact that England probably gets more support all adds up and it will all boil down to how you handle that pressure,' Tietjens said.

'In sevens, you are so easily exposed, unlike in 15s where you can quickly cover your faults. Every player makes mistakes, sometimes mistakes that can cost you a match. But what matters is how a player comes back from that, whether his play deteriorates or not. It is all about how you handle that pressure.

'I'm lucky in that I have a leader like D.J. and a core of other experienced heads around him, who will all be able to exert a calming influence on the new guys who will have to step it up this weekend,' Tietjens said.

Forbes, appearing in his seventh Hong Kong Sevens, said: 'My role will be to make sure the new guys are not too overawed. Although we have seven new faces, they are all tested and we know they can do the job. The best thing this season is that we have played at a consistent level.'

New Zealand are in pool B in the top-tier competition along with South Africa, Wales and the United States.

'In the past we have been able to share the workload in the preliminary stages because there has always been one game which is relatively easier,' Tietjens said. But with the tournament being restructured, there are no easy games and we have a tough draw. It is going to be pretty tough from day one.'