The new coach of the Manu Samoa Sevens team, Sir Gordon Tietjens, has broken his silence as to why he is not able to join the team until the beginning of the new year.
It turns out the New Zealand Rugby Union doesn’t want him to.
"I am still on contract to New Zealand Rugby and it runs through December, up to January. I guess you could say I am on gardening leave. I got a letter telling me about my contractual obligations," Tietjens told The New Zealand Herald.
Tietjens had initially declined to comment when he was contacted by The NZ Herald. But when pressed as to why he is not able to coach Samoa for the Dubai and South Africa legs of the HSBC Sevens Series, Tietjens admitted his 22-year stint with New Zealand Rugby is not yet over.
"I did find it a bit hurtful to be told I couldn't go to Samoa to coach and that I would effectively miss the first two tournaments - I thought maybe 22 years would count for something. There's an assistant coach in Samoa who will look after things until I can get there."
"I did offer to help with the New Zealand side some time ago - they still don't have a New Zealand coach appointed yet - but that doesn't seem to have come to anything; Dubai is only a few weeks away now."
New Zealand Rugby High Performance Manager Don Tricker said: "We've reached a confidential agreement with Sir Gordon so it's not really appropriate for us to comment further."
In announcing the appointment, the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) and Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, said although Tietjens will not officially start until January 2017, the announcement means Samoa had won the battle for the highly sought after coach.
“To me as Chairman of the Rugby Union, we consider this appointment of Sir Gordon as a great coup for our Samoan rugby. We know that there was much competition to secure the services of Sir Gordon a prestigious figure in world rugby sevens,” said Tuilaepa.
“Sir Gordon's appointment is not effective until the first of January 2017 but we plan to begin his orientation into our programme as soon as possible."
“We are indeed very excited about his appointment as we believe his unique ability to uncover new talent, his coaching prowess and his proven ability to lead world-champion campaigns, will help us to realize our potential.”
Tietjens said he is excited about his new role.
“I believe that Samoa has a huge amount of potential to start with. So my goal certainly as the coach is to get Samoa where they need to be at the top of that tree in Sevens Rugby.”
Speaking about New Zealand Rugby, Tietjens said he lacked the support he needed during his last few years with them.
“To be fair the last 18 months coaching New Zealand, I am a little disappointed around that time with the lack of support for our sevens programme."
“Even though I stepped down I didn’t want to retire. A position has come up and I am really excited by it hence wanting to obviously coach a Pacific Island team in the name of Samoa."
“I am already energized; really looking forward to it. I even understand that I won’t be involved in our very first tournament that we are playing in Dubai, New Zealand have joined the same pool as Samoa.”
The man who will be taking the Manu Samoa to Dubai and South Africa is Stephen Betham, Tietjen’s Assistant Coach.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, he said he is neither intimidated by Tietjen's pedigree nor bothered by the fact the two men were once foes during the I.R.B Sevens Series where the teams they coached often clashed.
“He’s one of the most recognised Sevens coaches in the world,” Betham said.
“If there’s anyone you aspire to be as a coach, look at the records, he’s got the best record in the world."
“So I take the opportunity to work with him as a learning curve for myself, not just for the players, but for me as a coach. I’m looking forward to it.”