Fiji, NZ face test after coaching changes: Te Nana

Former New Zealand rugby sevens skipper Karl Te Nana (fifth from left) is in town to select two teenagers to train in New Zealand.
Former New Zealand rugby sevens skipper Karl Te Nana (fifth from left) is in town to select two teenagers to train in New Zealand.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Fiji and New Zealand have been the two most dominant teams of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, having won a combined 15 titles out of the past 17 seasons.

But, with both teams changing their coaches recently, it is tough to predict if they could replicate their past successes when the new season kicks off in Dubai next month.

Fiji have lost Englishman Ben Ryan after he guided them to a historic gold-medal win at the Rio Olympic Games. Likewise, New Zealand's coach of 22 years, Gordon Tietjens, left the Kiwis in September to join the Samoan team.

While these teams regroup, it could favour other smaller sides such as Japan, who had made the semi-finals in Rio.

Former New Zealand rugby sevens skipper Karl Te Nana, 41, said: "It'll be interesting to see in Dubai how the players react to the new coaches because they would have to start afresh again and try to put their marks on their teams.

"The teams who haven't changed their coaches are probably going to have a leg up on the others."

Te Nana is in Singapore as part of a two-day "Heroes in the Making" programme, organised by the Singapore Rugby Union, to select two out of 40 teenagers to train in New Zealand. The announcement will be made today.

Now a rugby pundit, he will return to Singapore in April for the eighth stop of the World Series.

The Kiwi also still feels that Singapore can excel in the faster-paced and shorter sevens game.

He said: "It takes a long time to build up a 15s team, but the sevens game is so abbreviated, so you can probably reach a lot more schools with it to get more people to play."

To mark the launch of the revamped www.singapore7s.sg, organisers are offering the first 5,000 Category One ticket-buyers a free HSBC Singapore Sevens commemorative T-shirt while stocks last.

Two-day season passes for adults are also at a 20 per cent discount ($120 for Category One, $40 for Category Two) until Dec 31.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'Fiji, NZ face test after coaching changes: Te Nana'. Print Edition | Subscribe