Kiwis sevens straight down to business

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 03/02/2014
New Zealand Sevens Team
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
AT THE HELM: New Zealand sevens captain DJ Forbes, centre, leads the way during training at Porirua Park yesterday.

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Chocolate milk and chewy snakes refueled precious weight and energy, but didn't douse the New Zealand sevens team's desire to atone for last year's early exit at the Wellington Sevens.

Coach Gordon Tiejtens wasted no time putting his players through a typically gruelling two-hour session at Porirua Park yesterday after the squad assembled for their home leg of the IRB world series.

Last week's finals loss to South Africa, who have taken New Zealand's place at the top of the series points table, means round five has taken on extra importance for the home side.

And veteran Lote Raikabula said that was even more so for the senior pros in the team after last year's semifinal loss to Kenya, one he described as "embarrassing".

"It was really disappointing and it was so embarrassing losing to Kenya," he said. "And at the moment what is also fresh in our mind is what happened last week losing the final to South Africa, so there is a lot to play for.

"You do look at it [the points table], we look at it a lot. That's another motivation to play for, but it's not a 100 metre race this series, it's a marathon and as long as we are winning tournaments or there at the end, things will take care of themselves come that last one at Twickenham.

"We are looking forward to getting back here [Westpac Stadium]. We can't promise a win because everyone will be coming at us to spoil the party, but we can't control that. We have to play well and do things together off the field and hopefully it will come together on the field."

As always, New Zealand continue to set the standard when it comes to professionalism and preparation.

After a rusty start yesterday, they were slick and focused in training and the management had dotted every i.

Hand sanitizer was compulsory before players handled the team lollies to stop any bugs spreading through the squad. Towels sat on every seat in the minibus; GPS units measured performance, and drills were done exactly to instruction.

Chocolate milk though?

"We always drink it," Raikabula explained. "Trainings like this you lose a lot of weight, so this is trying to hold on to that weight. It's a protein drink so it's like after a gym session when you are trying to maintain that weight."

He estimated the GPS readings would have the players running about 10km during the session and losing as much as 4kg, though he was keen not to highlight the flavour of the milk too much in case Tietjens took the luxury away.

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"We don't want to show off that its chocolate milk too much in front of our coach, but its still milk, so we use that as an excuse."

New Zealand will train again today with a practice match against Australia tomorrow before the squad is whittled down from 14 to 12 for the weekend.

- Fairfax Media

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