All Black Sevens crave togetherness as Hong Kong Sevens Plate success does little to temper disappointing run
Coach hopes centralised programme will turn the tide as injury hit New Zealand defeat Argentina 10-7
New Zealand coach Scott Waldrom is hoping a centralised programme will return the All Black Sevens to the powerhouses they once were.
A 10-7 victory over Argentina in the Plate final was little consolation for a side that has played in the past three Cup deciders at the Hong Kong Sevens.
It has been a disappointing period for the sevens giants, with a quarter-final exit at the Rio Olympics followed by a below-par effort this season that sees them sitting fourth, 48 points behind leaders South Africa.
“There is certainly going to be some big changes between now and the start of next season around how the system looks,” said Waldrom, who is acting as interim boss until Scotsman Clark Laidlaw assumes permanent control in June.
“He [Laidlaw] will come in and we are going to move into a centralised programme which will certainly make a big difference.
“It will see the guys living in the same area and spending more time training together rather than as individuals out in their provinces.”
As it stands, Waldrom only gets his squad together for four days prior to each of the two-week World Series blocks.
“It’s fair to say we are all over the country, we have four on the South Island and the rest on the North Island,” he said.
“Everyone is pretty well spread so they don’t get a lot of time together except for heading into tournaments.”
There has been a huge turnover in the New Zealand squad since the Rio disappointment, with superstars Akira and Rieko Ioane among those plying their trade in Super Rugby.
“The good thing for us was a fresh start always helps and the guys have been able to concentrate on that and move on pretty quickly,” Waldrom said.
“We don’t have a lot of guys from the group that was in Rio so it’s a bit of a feeling of a new group.”
New Zealand’s win over Argentina was by no means pretty but it was a gutsy as can be, with the Kiwis reduced to just nine men after a swathe of injuries.
They lost captain Scott Curry before the tournament and then Tim Mikkelson, Dylan Collier, Iopu Iopu-Aso and Isaac Te Tamaki also went down, leaving the squad bruised and battered ahead of Singapore next week.
Waldrom cited the experience gained by the likes of young gun Vilimoni Koroi as one of the biggest positives he will take out of the weekend.
“Some of these new guys, it’s their first time to Hong Kong and this group will learn a lot,” he said.
“I think we are playing some pretty attractive rugby and we are slowly getting out systems right.
“If we can just keep developing and improving, most of the foundations we are putting in place now are probably going to pay off next season.”
Sam Dickson and debutant Joe Ravouvou were the try scorers as New Zealand dashed to a 10-0 lead against Argentina.
However, a tiring Kiwi side were forced to hang tight late after a converted Franco Sabato try dragged his side back into the contest.
But it wasn’t only the young players picking up the slack for New Zealand, with Waldrom indicating 34-year-old spiritual leader DJ Forbes will be around the team for some time yet.
“He is probably playing the best he has played in a few years and he is still keen to be involved,” Waldrom said.
“At this stage if he keeps playing well, he’s going to stay in there. We certainly had to do it tough in the end with only two reserves. We’ve got to play better and hopefully we are going to learn.”
Earlier in the day, New Zealand lost 21-19 to South Africa to slip into the Plate, while Argentina fell 21-12 to Australia in their Cup quarter-final.