Depth important, but Cama will be there in Rio

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014
Tomasi Cama
GETTYS
CREATIVE LEADER: Tomasi Cama is as fit as ever despite niggling injury.

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Tomasi Cama may be struggling with a calf niggle, but there is no need to worry about his involvement through to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

New Zealand Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens is without the experienced playmaker for tournaments in Tokyo and Hong Kong, as the Manawatu Turbo deals with the injury.

The veteran coach has also dropped the 60-tournament experience of Lote Raikabula from his latest squad, with the Wellington man struggling to find form this year.

Tietjens is having no issues mixing the need to develop depth in the New Zealand Sevens programme, and the need to win matches and tournaments.

With Cama struggling with his calf all this year, it has thrown up questions over whether he will be around for the Olympic Games in two years' time.

At 33, Cama is getting long in the tooth, but Tietjens has no worries about his creative leader.

''Tomasi, he's 33, but he's as fit as he's ever been and he's not going to make it easy for players to come in and take his place,'' Tietjens said.

''He's got a niggly calf injury which has been quite persistent of late, so it does provide opportunities for other players to gain some real experience''

Certainly, he's got to be 100 per cent fit, and he wouldn't want to be there if he wasn't. 

''As I said, he's probably as fit as he's ever been and also quicker, so he's putting the work in and he wants to be around in 2016.''

His absence gives Southland's Marty McKenzie a debut for New Zealand in Tokyo and Hong Kong, while Gillies Kaka will be the team's chief playmaker.

Exciting Auckland teenager Akira Ioane keeps his place in the squad after making his debut in Wellington and should also provide some X-factor to the squad.

Tietjens said McKenzie will come in and play halfback, and is a creative player with plenty of upside in the sport.

''He has plenty to learn, because he is new to sevens, but he's another exciting young guy coming through.''

McKenzie trained with the Chiefs Super Rugby team earlier this year after being dropped by the Blues late last year, after they brought in league star Benji Marshall.

Tietjens said it is important to build depth in the squad looking to the future, but also said it's vital to have 12 top players in the squad at each tournament.

''I think what we're finding now is that you have to have a really good bench,'' he said.

''You can have those two or three guys with the real X-factor, but you if they go down in the first couple of minutes you need strong players on the bench, and we've got that.

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''I don't like to make substitutions for the sake of it, but you need to have those guys ready to make a real impact on a game, even if it's only a 14 minute game.''

He said those players will be vital in the lead up to Rio, and need to get as much experience as they can.Next year will be the most important World Series for some time, as Olympic qualification will be up for grabs.

The New Zealand Sevens team left for Tokyo yesterday morning, ahead of the tournament this weekend.

They play Canada, Wales and Portugal in their pool, and sit first in the World Series standings on 99 points, ahead of South Africa two points behind.

- Fairfax Media

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