Something old, something new for NZ Sevens

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2014
All Blacks Sevens
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FAMILIAR TERRITORY: Captain DJ Forbes raises the trophy after New Zealand won the Wellington leg of the IRB series for the seventh time.

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Past deeds and old heroes continue to feed New Zealand's remarkable feats at the Wellington Sevens.

Just ask Ambrose Curtis, who realised a childhood dream at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

The 21-year-old was one of two Wellingtonians in a New Zealand squad that etched itself into the history books with one of the sport's great defensive stands.

"I used to come here as a young kid watching the sevens boys, idolising them," he said after helping the Kiwis blank South Africa 21-0 in the final.

"This is pretty much a dream come true for me and to do it in my home town and get on in the last few minutes of the final. This is just a blessing."

The Oriental-Rongotai outside back provided a direct link to a tradition that has seen New Zealand win seven titles in Wellington.

"I was coming here when I was about seven or eight years old watching the boys from my club Ories, legends around the club," he said, recalling a club roll call that includes current team-mate Lote Raikabula as well as past stars of the Wellington tournament in Roy Kinikinilau, Tafai Ioasa, Justin Wilson and Ardie and Julian Savea.

With proud parents Genevieve and Bill, brothers Jared and Byron and older sister Serena in the stands, Curtis was determined to add his name to the honours board.

It is a motivational dynamic coach Gordon Tietjens embraces and nurtures when the IRB World Series rolls on to home turf.

Legend Jonah Lomu provided the final words in the changing room before the final against South Africa and Victor Vito handed out the jerseys on Thursday night.

"I thought Victor was the right guy to do that. He scored a couple of tries that launched his career to an extent and I thought with Akira Ioane and the youngsters in the team," Tietjens said. "And Jonah, with what he did in sevens rugby, it was great to have him in the changing room."

The value of such powerful role models shone through as New Zealand kept their line intact over five matches after losing their opening game to Fiji.

Spain, France, Canada, in the quarterfinal, defending champions England in the semifinal, and then South Africa couldn't conjure a try between them as the Kiwis put up an impenetrable black wall.

And while old heads Tim Mikkelson, DJ Forbes, Bryce Heem, Scott Curry and Sherwin Stowers all shone, Tietjens was most pleased with the depth that is now queuing up behind them.

"The new young guys like Ambrose Curtis and George Tilsley, the sad thing was I'd love to have given them more game time but their time will come.

"It was great to have them coming off the bench. Akira Ioane, I think he's an outstanding talent. Spend a bit more time with us and he'll get a lot more game time," Tietjens said.

"He's a real linebreaker and a game breaker and just has a wonderful skill set."

Ioane will have to wait six weeks to take his next steps in international sevens when the series heads to Tokyo.

It will be a chance for New Zealand to maintain the momentum they built in Wellington and for Tietjens to add further to his growing stable of talent.

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"We have a couple of players to come back, guys like Joe Webber and Sam Dickson, they would have probably been part of this squad and Waisake Naholo, so there is a lot of competition for spots," Tietjens said before tipping his hat to his skipper DJ Forbes.

"If I was to name a player in my team I just wouldn't go past DJ Forbes in this tournament. He was just simply magnificent. He led so well, extremely fit and motivated.

"I know he wants to be here for the long haul and the Olympics, and the way he's going it will take something special to push him out of that spot."

- The Dominion Post

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