All Blacks 7s determined to recapture winning form

Sione Molia of the New Zealand Sevens side shows his hand-to-eye coordination while learning how to prepare teh tarik as his team-mates cheered him on at Baker & Cook yesterday.
Sione Molia of the New Zealand Sevens side shows his hand-to-eye coordination while learning how to prepare teh tarik as his team-mates cheered him on at Baker & Cook yesterday.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

It has been a trying HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series season for New Zealand so far, as the team try to recalibrate and find a winning combination.

The All Blacks Sevens, crowned overall champions 12 times, have yet to reach a Cup final this term. Besides adjusting to a new coach, they have had injury worries too, said loose forward Iopu Iopu-Aso.

For the first time in two decades, they are in unfamiliar territory after the departure of coach Gordon Tietjens, 61, who stepped down after the Rio Games. Until Scotsman Clark Laidlaw takes over in June, Kiwi Scott Waldrom is the interim head coach.

The All Blacks are fourth in the table with 97 points, well behind leaders South Africa (145), Fiji (122) and England (113). The last time New Zealand finished outside the top three was in 2009.

In the previous 17 seasons, New Zealand lost fewer than 15 per cent of their 841 games. This campaign, they have lost almost a third of their 41 matches, including a 0-40 drubbing by South Africa last December.

"Collectively, as a group, we've found it hard," said Iopu-Aso at yesterday's Air New Zealand media event. "The way the draw has gone, we've managed to get a couple of the top teams in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, and we didn't manage to execute our game plan the way we wanted to. That's just the way the cookie crumbles."

Added the 26-year-old: "We know what the winning combination is and what the formula is. We just need to make sure we have the right mindset at the right time to be able to perform when it's time."

Utility back Sione Molia, 23, said the team needs to go back to mastering the basics. He added: "The effort is there for each individual, but we just need to click as a team and work on executing the basics."

The Kiwis finished fifth last year at the National Stadium. They are in Group C alongside Wales, Scotland and USA and are expecting a tough tournament but Iopu-Aso said the team is keeping its spirits up.

He added: "There's nothing really in our game plan, but just to come out here and give everything. The boys are firing, they're ready to go, and we really want (to win) this one, just as every other one."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'All Blacks 7s determined to recapture winning form'. Print Edition | Subscribe