NZ's reward for leading series is pool of death
New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens is frustrated after a lopsided draw handed his team a place in the pool of death at this weekend's South African leg of the world series.
The All Blacks Sevens lead the series after finishing runners-up in the first two events in Australia and Dubai.
But their reward for their efforts in Dubai on Sunday, when they were beaten by Samoa in the final, is to be drawn into a pool that includes traditional rivals Fiji, heavyweights England and also Scotland. Just two teams qualify from pool play for the quarterfinals, meaning there will be at least one high-profile casualty from the quartet.
The system being used for allocating teams places the top three teams from the previous tournament into pools A, B and C with the rest of the teams selected randomly from tiered bands.
With England failing to make the Dubai quarterfinals and Fiji being eliminated by France in the quarters, they became dangerous floaters for the South African tournament and a cruel twist of fate placed both in New Zealand's pool.
Tietjens believes a seeding system using the current rankings would be fairer.
"You deserve to get some reward for playing six games," he said of making it through to the Dubai final and now backing up under extraordinary circumstances in South Africa.
"You should have four teams that are seeded, then you've got them all going into a draw to try and even out the competition.
"But then I'm perhaps a little bit traditional when it comes to seeding tournaments. I always believe also that where you sit in the World Series after every tournament, that's where you should be seeded. But it doesn't work that way."
Tietjens said it was a matter of getting on with the job, though the defence of the South African title, for which his team beat the Boks in last year's final, has clearly become tougher.
"We've all got to get used to it as teams and you're going to strike some draws like that."
Tietjens has long maintained the sevens field was getting increasingly even, and the Dubai results reflected that. Portugal beating both South Africa and England there reflected that.
"You've got 16 pretty tough teams now; there's no easy games," he said.
He feared the tough pool handed to his team meant he would have little chance to rest his older, experienced players and they would face a big workload in South Africa, where Port Elizabeth hosts the event for the first time.
The next event will be in Wellington on February 1 and 2.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand women's team, having won the inaugural world series tournament in Dubai, must wait until February 1 for their next tournament, which will be held in Houston, in the United States. Fairfax NZ