Omissions show strength in NZ Sevens squad

IN THE MIX: Veteran playmaker Tomasi Cama has been named as a reserve for the NZ Sevens squad ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
IN THE MIX: Veteran playmaker Tomasi Cama has been named as a reserve for the NZ Sevens squad ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

With all the smiles on display at the New Zealand Sevens team naming for the Commonwealth Games, it was easy to forget about shattered outcasts back at the team hotel.

Coach Gordon Tietjens named a strong team for the Glasgow Games this month, including Blues midfielder Pita Ahki and returning wing Declan O'Donnell.

The 12 men Tietjens selected, lined up in their Commonwealth Games track suits on Mount Maunganui beach, were hard to argue with, but it's the guys left behind at the hotel that show the real strength in the squad.

Veterans Tomasi Cama and Lote Raikabula were left out, as well as Crusader Adam Whitelock and impressive Wellingtonian Ambrose Curtis.

Cama has struggled to make the New Zealand squad this year, battling injury and form, although Tietjens is convinced the 2012 IRB Sevens World Player of the Year still has plenty to offer.

He wouldn't say the 33-year-old's career was winding to an end.

''Tomasi just hasn't had the game time this year.

''He's been out with injury and it probably went against him when I went to select the team.

''He will more than likely go to Amsterdam and be a back up, and he's certainly got lots and lots of knowledge, and he's still fit, still doing the work, just not selected.''

Waikato playmaker Joe Webber has been in the same boat as Cama for much of the season, battling injury and struggling to find game time.

When he has been fit Webber has been selected ahead of Cama, taking his place as the backup to Gillies Kaka in New Zealand's starting side.

It appears youth and athleticism is working against Cama, and could make it a tough task for the Manawatu man to make it to the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Raikabula's absence this season is down to form, with the 30-year-old failing to find the level he's shown in more than 60 world series tournaments for New Zealand since 2006.

Captain DJ Forbes, Tim Mikkelson and Sherwin Stowers provide the experience in the side, having won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Big forward Scott Curry has become one of New Zealand's most important players, and will be key to success in Glasgow, while youngster Akira Ioane should provide impact from the bench.

New Zealand are unbeaten at the Commonwealth Games, winning every match and four golds since sevens was introduced in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

South Africa, Australia and England will provide stern opposition in Glasgow, but Fiji will not compete after their ban from the Games was uplifted after the sevens draw had been made.

Waikato Times