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Hurricanes pair eyeing Rio Olympic Games

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013
TJ Perenara
BACK FROM INJURY: Hurricanes' halfback TJ Perenara.

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Hurricanes' halfback TJ Perenara says the pull of the Olympics already has him thinking about whether he could make a switch to sevens in 2016.

And senior team-mate No 8 Victor Vito has revealed he would be keen to return to the abbreviated game for a tilt at a gold medal in three years.

"It's a wee way off but I can't lie and say I'm not thinking about the sevens as well," Perenara said yesterday.

"I'd have to adapt to it and play a little because I haven't played in so long, but it is on my mind.

"It is not a guarantee I wouldn't have a go. It's something I'd definitely think about.

"Everyone wants to be an Olympic gold medallist and sevens in New Zealand - we pride ourselves on our sevens game as much as we do the fifteens."

The New Zealand Rugby Union has said players wanting to chase Olympic selection will have to give up their fifteens commitments in 2016 to qualify.

And though it would depend on the situation for each individual at the time, Perenara believed many would make that sacrifice.

"I think they will. It's in the future, so you can't be 100 per cent and it is an individual decision, but money can only get you so much where having an Olympic medal around your neck, that would last forever.

"It would be a big decision [to give up fifteens for a season] but to get that Olympic gold medal could be the result at the end of the day."

Media polling of the ranks of Super Rugby this week suggests there will be no shortage of top players putting their hands up.

It casts doubt on the New Zealand Rugby Union's belief that non-specialist sevens players in the 2016 team will be the "exception rather than the rule".

Chiefs loose forward Liam Messam said he'd leap at the chance to go to Rio, while cross-code specialist Sonny Bill Williams recently stated his goal of winning a gold medal in sevens.

Vito, who was a star in the New Zealand sevens team in 2007-08, said it was difficult to speculate on something so far out, but made it clear he'd prefer to be in the mix.

"If the Olympics was this year or next year I'd definitely be keen to . . . get a medal, or a gold medal obviously, in an Olympic event.

"That'd be awesome; it's something nobody has achieved."

Vito said it would come down to individual choice when it came to giving up fifteens for a year.

"You'd have to talk to the powers that be at the time, I guess.

"It might be all good and well to chase your Olympics dream but if you come back and have lost your All Black chances, then maybe it wasn't worth it.

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"If the door is still open to contesting for All Blacks afterwards, then you'd be wrong not to try and have your cake and eat it.

"I'd be 28 but all going well I'd love to chase that Olympic dream.

"It'd be amazing to be up there with the greats and getting a gold medal would be awesome."

Vito speculates it would take a Super Rugby player "about two months" of playing and training sevens to be up to the required fitness and conditioning levels.

"You have to be sevens fit, which means taking time to play the games.

"The only thing that can get you sevens fit is playing the games and doing the trainings.

"If you were starting from scratch, it might be a good six months but if anything, from here, I'd say I'd give myself two months."

- The Dominion Post

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