Lack of Super players shows sevens strength

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2014

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Sevens

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The lack of Super Rugby talent added to the New Zealand Sevens squad for Commonwealth Games preparation is a testament to the strength of the class of 2014.

Only two Super Rugby players have been added to the trial squad by coach Gordon Tietjens, with Highlander Kurt Baker and Pita Ahki of the Blues hoping to make the grade.

Both are former New Zealand Sevens players, having won the Rugby Sevens World Cup last year in Russia, while Baker won gold with the team at the Delhi Games in 2010.

The only other Super Rugby talent in the 18-man trial squad is Crusaders back Adam Whitelock, but he has been in camp with the team for most of this year.

Star back Sherwin Stowers said he was surprised that so few Super Rugby players were added to the team, but believes Tietjens has faith in a strong crop of current sevens players.

"The last time we had this we had six or eight Super Rugby boys and five All Blacks," he said.

"But with the playoffs and Super Rugby teams being so close I can understand why Titch hasn't picked many of those players.

"In saying that, I think we've got a strong squad and I think Titch knew that too. We don't really need outsiders to come into this squad with the strength we have."

All Blacks Liam Messam, Ben Smith, Hosea Gear and Zac Guildford were part of the 2010 Commonwealth Games team, and back in 2006 Cory Jane, Tamati Ellison, Tanerau Latimer, Sosene Anesi and Messam were involved in another gold medal win.

Rewind as far as 1998 and verified legends of the game Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen were among the names winning gold in Kuala Lumpur.

"Kurt and Pita know what the sevens is all about being former sevens boys, so I think they really add to the team.

"It can be a lot harder for other guys who haven't played to get up to speed."

Don't expect a lack of big stars to be a problem for New Zealand in Glasgow, however.

Tietjens has built his deepest squad ever in the extended buildup to the Rio Olympics, and that deep squad led to one of the team's best seasons on record, winning five of the nine IRB Sevens World Series tournaments this season.

"It's full noise," Stowers said.

"We've been split into our trial teams and it's full noise, full contact.

"It's quite difficult in trials because you know all the boys, you know their strengths, and you want to stop them.

"The intensity does go up preparing for Commonwealth Games, but you wouldn't expect anything less."

Tietjens will name his final 12-man squad for the Commonwealth Games next week.

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- Waikato Times

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