Manu Sevens’ growing pains

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Manu Samoa Sevens coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens. Photo: Iain McGregor/Samoa ObserverRugby. Sport.Samoa sevens team train at Apia Park Stadium.

Manu Samoa Sevens coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens. Photo: Iain McGregor/Samoa ObserverRugby. Sport.Samoa sevens team train at Apia Park Stadium. (Photo: Iain McGregor)

With more time and exposure, Samoa can expect to see a winning Sevens team in a couple of years.

A few weeks away from the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, Manu Samoa Sevens coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens, remains optimistic about his young team.

During an interview with the Observer Sports, he reflects on the outcomes from the last World Series in June, emphasizing that getting the best out of the team is going to require time and patience for them to grow into their potential.

“I think it is realistic to think that in a few years we could win or be a threat in one of those world series but it’s going to take time and a little bit of patience,” he said. 

“If you go back to 2009 when Samoa was successful in winning a world series, that team there had to battle through a number of certainly tough years before they got to where they got to and that was coming in as youngsters, giving them time to get that experience under their belt then getting out when the time really mattered to produce those performances.”

In the last World Sevens Series, Tietjens identified the lack of consistency in their playing record.

“I suppose the lack of consistency in some of our performances and going back to the tournament at Twickenham, turning around and beating South Africa who went on to win the world series and beating them comfortably and now of course losing to some of the lesser teams and games that we thought we should win. Lacking consistency is something that disappoints me.”

However, the Manu Samoa Sevens coach pointed out there was still a big improvement from last year.

“What pleased me the most about the recent completed series was first and foremost finishing 10th in the world series, which was a big improvement from last year.

“In saying that, we did that with a lot of new younger players that we were forced into a situation with major injuries to some of the key players which gave those younger players an opportunity to go out there and perform which at times they did which was really pleasing.”

Tietjens acknowledges there are challenges, mostly around individual members of the team having to take ownership for their conditioning outside of training times.

“I enjoy coaching them, I think they are a great bunch of boys to coach,” he said. 

“There are a lot of challenges there. These are challenges around of course I suppose as players getting into being really consistent around their training performances, not just when you’re training as a team but when you’re on your own, and to push themselves as hard as they need to because the game of sevens right now is built around conditioning and of course making those good choices around nutrition. If you get the conditioning side and the nutrition side of it right – we can be very consistent I believe, going into play for Samoa.”

Asked to name any particular players that he was excited about in the lineup and Tietjens said: “I think the players I’m excited about is Elisapeta Alofipo one of the wingers, certainly young as he is, had his first year with me last year. 

 “In a couple of tournaments, he’s gone on to produce some great performances this year. Unfortunately pre-world coming up he’s done a P.C.L which is really disappointing for him but the future for Elisapeta looks huge.”

There are other young players he is excited about.

Leading up to the World Cup, Tietjens says that the team are engaging well with each other and forming a close bond over their passion to play for Samoa.

“I haven’t really had to manage any difficulties between the island guys and the players from New Zealand because they get along so very, very well,” he said. 

“I certainly found the New Zealand players that are involved are very committed because they have the passion to play for Samoa.  They work particularly hard and of course they get on very well with the players.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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