New Zealand mastermind Gordon Tietjens put on a brave front yesterday and brushed aside the loss of star Sherwin Stowers, who has failed to recover from an ankle injury and will be missing as the Kiwis aim to take a giant step towards regaining the IRB Sevens World Series crown this weekend.
Tietjens had hoped Stowers would rejoin the squad for the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens after missing last week's leg in Adelaide, but the flyer failed to pass a fitness test and has been ruled out.
'Sherwin has explosive pace and with what he had done, you could say we will miss him. But we have a very good back-up in Save Tokula,' Tietjens said. 'Save was outstanding in Adelaide, and is a very good winger. I would have had problems on who to pick if I had Sherwin here as well.'
That is Tietjens' way of putting a very positive spin to circumstances beyond his control. But considering that New Zealand, and indeed all the other core teams in the IRB series, will be playing their second energy sapping tournament in the space of a week, Tietjens would have loved to have had that selection headache.
Stowers set the series alight early in the season with breathtaking performances in the opening two legs in Dubai and George, spearheading the Kiwi charge to victory. But New Zealand's leading try-scorer, with 20 tries, has been out with injury since the Las Vegas Sevens.
New Zealand, who have retained the same squad that turned out last week, will also be missing the experienced Lote Raikabula though injury. But Tietjens remained positive in view of his side's performance in Adelaide, where even though they were knocked out by Samoa in the Cup quarter-finals, still showed class to go on and beat South Africa and Fiji to winning the Plate.
'We lost two players in Stowers and Raikabula, and we have stuck with the same squad. We played pretty well in Adelaide, and I thought we did enough to win the tournament.
'But still beating two big teams like South Africa and Fiji to win the Plate was good and it told me that if we play to our potential here, we can give this tournament a good crack,' Tietjens said.
Despite playing second fiddle to Samoa at the past two tournaments - in fact New Zealand have lost to Samoa four times this season - the Kiwis have still managed to stay on top of the standings. Just. They have 96 points and lead Samoa by two.
'Sevens rugby is all about consistency. It is about producing performance after performance. Look at Fiji last year, they bided their time and them lifted the tempo on the last day. That was a sign of a good team,' Tietjens said.
Apart from being consistent, the other major factor in Tietjens view is staying injury-free.
New Zealand were knocked out by Kenya in the Cup quarter-finals last year and will be looking at redeeming that performance on Sunday.