Player hits 50th game

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 16:59 14/09/2012
Tim Mikkelson
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
TIM MIKKELSON: "I still love playing sevens and I still love coming back and playing for Waikato."

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Tim Mikkelson admits it has not get any easier switching back and forth between international sevens and the 15-a-side code back in New Zealand.

But the lanky winger will play his 50th game for Waikato in 15s against Wellington at Westpac Stadium today and is proud of his record in the red, yellow and black.

''It is pretty hard,'' said Mikkelson. ''Over the years when you come back from sevens the 15s game is picking a lot up from Super Rugby so a lot of stuff is changing and you've got to adapt to that.

''But I still love doing it. I still love playing sevens and I still love coming back and playing for Waikato.''

Mikkelson, 26, hopes he can hang in with the New Zealand Sevens team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, even though he will turn 30 in August that year.

''I suppose if I'm still loving it and I'm still getting picked by Titch [coach Gordon Tietjens] and the body's still right I'd love to give it a go.

''But in saying that it's four years away and that's a long time so I'll just take one year at a time.''

Sevens is often seen as a young man's game with a lot of players launching their careers from a young age in the reduced form of the game.

''But looking at guys like DJ Forbes, Lote Raikabula and Tomasi Cama, who are in their 30s, they show it can be done at an older age and it's just about looking after the body and being professional,'' Mikkelson said.

Meanwhile he is looking for a busier and more urgent game than he has produced for Waikato so far this season when he returns to the starting lineup today after being on the bench midweek, taking over at right wing this time in place of the injured Declan O'Donnell.

''They've told us that because of the short turnarounds they'll be changing the team around a bit but it does wake you up a bit, especially when you are watching the boys play at home [from the dugout] when you want to be out there with them.

''So I can't wait to get out there this weekend.''

But he knows it will be a tough assignment against a Wellington team that has lost just once, to Canterbury.

''They've got big ball carriers, their backline's got a lot of good ball players and you're never sure what the conditions are going to be like down there - whether it's going to be wet or windy.

''So it's a tough place to play down there and we've just got to bring our game plan and look at doing the little things well.

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''I just want to bring a lot of urgency, working off the ball and just defensively working with my centre and hopefully I will have a big game and get my hands on the ball.''

That means having a high work rate all over the field, rather than just out on the wing, while helping to shut down Wellington's deadly wide game.

For head coach Chris Gibbes, finding consistency in his team's performance is paramount as they head into the last of a tough three-games-in-eight-days schedule, looking for their third win in five matches and desperate not to concede their third loss.

''We got the attitude right on Tuesday night, but we didn't get 100 per cent accuracy,'' Gibbes said.

''We've had long enough together now and it's important we just get out there and put out what we train.''

Gibbes is stressing the need to hang on to the ball for long periods of time to build their attacking game and pivotal to that he is still looking for the complete package from his players at the breakdowns. He got urgency against Bay of Plenty midweek but some players will still caught taking the ball into contact too high and turnovers/penalties resulted.

''We know what we need to do and we just need to execute it more accurately.''

Waikato again look likely to be hampered by wet conditions but if they can get front-foot ball, get a strong kicking game out of Piers Francis, Sam Christie and Trent Renata to play at the right end of the field and are able to build pressure then their attack should come together as well as their defence did against the Bay.

AT A GLANCE

Wellington: Jason Woodward, Alapati Leiua, Charlie Ngatai, Shaun Treeby, Matt Proctor, Tim Bateman, Frae Wilson, Ardie Savea, Scott Fuglistaller, Lua Lokotui, Mark Reddish, Jeremy Thrush (c), Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Eric Sione. Res: Motu Matu'u, Solomona Sakalia, Kaipati Gaualofa, Genesis Mamea, Kayne Hammington, Lima Sopoaga, Ambrose Curtis.

Waikato: Trent Renata, Tim Mikkelson, Save Tokula, Sam Christie, Glen Robertson, Piers Francis, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Alex Bradley (c), Jono Armstrong, Matt Vant Leven, Sam Kilgour, Chris Middleton, Ben May, Marcel Cummings-Toone, Toby Smith. Res: Vance Elliott, Ted Tauroa, Anthony Wise, Rory Grice, Brendon Leonard, Jackson Willison, Joe Webber.

Referee: Nick Briant (Bay of Plenty).

Kickoff: 4.35pm today, Westpac Stadium, Wellington.

- Waikato

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