Title a repeat birthday gift for Tietjens
Gordon Tietjens is getting accustomed to celebrating his birthday in style.
The highly successful New Zealand sevens rugby coach turned 57 yesterday and as in the previous three years, his team gave him the perfect present - victory in the South African leg of the world series.
"It's an awesome birthday present. I've had a lot of luck winning it here on my birthday but I just feel for the players, they performed magnificently," Tietjens beamed after the 47-12 demolition of France in the cup final at Port Elizabeth.
"The younger players did their bit when they had to and then the five core experienced players of [Tomasi] Cama, [DJ] Forbes, [Tim] Mikkelson, [Lote] Raikabula and [Kurt] Baker, they were just outstanding.
"The younger players like Sam Dickson and Ben Lam will just learn so much from them, and they'll be the ones who kick on when those guys aren't around."
Nobody shone brighter at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium than Baker, the Manawatu-born Taranaki fullback who scored seven tries on finals day - a hat-trick in the 35-5 quarterfinal win against Wales, one in the last-gasp 12-5 semifinal win against South Africa, and another hat-trick in the title decider against France.
It was New Zealand's first win of the series after finishing runners-up in the first two legs, to Fiji on the Gold Coast and Samoa in Dubai. With Fiji tumbling out in the quarterfinals following a 15-12 loss to Argentina, and Samoa failing to even make the last eight, New Zealand extended their lead in the overall championship from six to 14 points.
They moved to 60 points, with France now second on 46 and Fiji third on 44.
Three of the nine legs have been completed.
"We probably needed this one," said skipper Forbes, who described the win as "pretty special".
"We had a bit of pressure on us to perform but to win [in South Africa] four times in a row, under pressure, is awesome.
"Nobody remembers consistency, we needed to start winning, so it's pleasing and good to have one in the bank looking ahead to our home tourney [in Wellington]."
The world series breaks for almost two months until the next leg, in Wellington in February.
The draw for Wellington was conducted yesterday, with the hosts to face England, the United States and Spain on the first day in pool A.
Port Elizabeth runners-up France head pool B, which includes Argentina, Kenya and regional qualifiers Tonga.
South Africa were drawn against Wales, Samoa and Canada in pool C and Port Elizabeth's surprise package, pool-toppers Portugal, have drawn Fiji, Australia and Scotland in pool D.