All Blacks wanted to bolster Sevens for Olympics
MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Rio de Janeiro seems a long way from a chilly summer night in Glasgow, but rugby sevens guru Gordon Tietjens has already sent out his wish list of stars for the next Olympics.
That includes Sonny Bill Williams, and current All Blacks Cory Jane, Liam Messam and Julian Savea, as he casts the net wide in the wake of the end of a Commonwealth Games era.
The drive for five successive golds under Tietjens fell short against a better South African team, who won the final 17-12 before a packed house at Ibrox against a New Zealand side whose inexperience showed.
The golden Games run began in 1998 with Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen aboard, and stretched to 30 successive wins before yesterday's final. It was an outstanding record but with other teams improving fast it couldn't last forever. Now with the two year countdown about to start to Rio, let the player hunt begin.
"I've sent out a huge wish list to all the players who I consider could be real contenders to go to the Olympics. They will make a decision as to whether they want to be considered and if they do, then in that year sevens becomes the priority," Tietjens said.
Asked if that included Williams, who has re-signed with the NZ Rugby Union from next year till 2016, Tietjens said: "He's still involved in league but if he comes back to rugby I understand he'll be interested in having a crack at the team to go to Rio."
Tietjens said contenders would have to forgo Super Rugby in 2016 and play at least six world series sevens tournaments. Some, like Jane, Messam and Savea who'd played for Tietjens before might get some leeway, but would need to play at least four tournaments.
Next year's World Cup would also play its part, as players reassess their career goals.
"If we play very well and win the rugby World Cup you may have a lot of players coming off contract who may put their hands up."
For now, it was all about who wasn't there at Ibrox, a cracking sevens venue which now reverts to its familiar existence as Rangers' football headquarters. The noise was deafening from nearly 50,000 fans and New Zealand never really hit their straps after game one against Canada.
Captain DJ Forbes and Tim Mikkelson were their rocks and Ben Lam their most potent attacker, but they rued crucial errors as they fronted with nine Games first-timers. Only Forbes, Mikkelson and Sherwin Stowers were back from Delhi. Veterans Lote Raikabula and Tomasi Cama weren't included due to lack of game time while Blues Super Rugby midfielder Pita Ahki strained a hamstring in the opening game and wasn't sighted since.
South Africa had 2014 Springbok Cornal Hendricks while their gamebreaker was flyer Seabelo Senatla who was the tournament's top tryscorer with 11.
There were grim New Zealand faces on the podium as they and Australia were awarded the minor medals. Forbes was philosophical, posing for selfies and managing a smile as his team-mates filed past, silver not what they'd envisaged.
"The team are very disappointed but I'm proud of them and they should be happy with a silver medal," Tietjens said.
"We put ourselves under a bit of pressure, a couple of errors and a sin binning and a yellow card [for Bryce Heem] can cost you. That's pressure and we cracked at times when we needed to be a bit more composed."
Tietjens is contracted to the NZRU till 2016 and all signs are that Rio will signal the end of a glittering coaching career. He hardly has any more to prove at Commonwealth Games level, with Gold Coast the next venue in 2018.
"It's not bad, 30 wins out of 31 games. It's a pretty good record. I don't think I'll be here in four years' time. It might be my last Games, but who knows."