Samoa out to ride Gordon Tietjens wave in Hong Kong after Olympic Games setback
Captain Fa’alemiga Selesele says the island nation are ready to move on under the legendary New Zealand coach at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens after missing out on Rio de Janeiro last year
The heartbreak for Samoa was there for the world to see last year. A last-second try in the final of the sudden-death qualifying event in Monaco ensured it was upstarts Spain, not the islanders, who were off to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games following a 22-19 victory.
Captain Fa’alemiga Selesele was the first to speak to his devastated teammates after the loss, telling them to consign it to history and turn their attentions immediately to the future instead.
“It was tough, a real hard way to lose, but that’s what happens in this game – one thing can decide the game, I told them we just have to move on,” Selesele said.
So, in the months since Rio, Samoa have been trying to turn their fortunes around after a relatively lean period for a sevens-proud nation last crowned HSBC Sevens World Series champions in 2009-10, and last winners of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens that season.
What has slowly been helping right the ship has been the recruitment of Gordon Tietjens after 22 years of unequalled success as the leader of New Zealand.
“He’s been great for the young blokes and the older ones, just getting us focused and making us think about the game all the time, every day,” said Selesele.
Selesele was Samoa’s standout in Hong Kong last year with his efforts as his team bowed out in the Bowl semi-finals leading to him being named in the event’s “Dream Team.”
The 28-year-old has been plagued by recent shoulder trouble but has arrived with a clean bill of health – and with Tietjens saying he’ll play a huge role once action starts on Friday.
“I know I have a job to do, and I have to show the way for the young blokes,” said Selesele.
The Samoan captain was doing just that on Sunday during an event hosted by the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, the Hong Kong Rugby Union and the Tuen Mun Sharks mini rugby club aimed at raising awareness of shark conservation.
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Selesele threw himself into the fray during games with the mini rugby kids – much to their delight. He said after brushing off some tackles that it was an issue close to home to the Samoans and Tonga, who joined them later for a hitout.
“It’s a positive message about sharks and on the islands they are very special to us,” said Selesele. “It’s great for us to come to Hong Kong and see these kids supporting it.”