Sixth in Sevens World Series a win for Samoa
With the Manu Samoa Sevens achieving their best finish in the overall World Rugby Sevens Series standings since 2013, coach Sir Gordon Tietjens said they accomplished their goal of a place in the top eight.
“Finishing sixth ahead of some very, very good teams was really pleasing,” he said.
Since the former All Black Sevens coach took over in 2017, Samoa have finished 13th, 10th and now sixth in the Series.
Tietjens said you’re always looking to improve, and his goal from the outset was bringing in new players, particularly players in Samoa.
“One of the key areas that I’d love to keep improving on is building more depth on the island," he said.
“We brought on a lot of new young players this year, which is really pleasing for the future of Samoan 7s.
“There’s times during the World Series you’ve gotta give them that opportunity, and in some cases some of those players really excelled.”
Samoa fielded 25 different players on the 2018/19 World Rugby Sevens Series, including 14 who made their debut at the highest level.
“Some of them, they got an opportunity to play for Samoa, at Twickenham, in Paris, in Hong Kong,” Tietjens said.
“You can never take that experience away from them, it’ll only grow them as rugby players.”
The Manu Samoa 7s also reached six Cup quarterfinals this season, after only making three in 2018 and one in 2017.
Tietjens said the work the team has put into their conditioning is producing results on the field.
“There has been steady improvement, and I think that real self belief is within the side now.
“I thought the entire squad this year worked particularly hard to achieve sixth place in the Series, and they all need to be congratulated.”
He said that includes the management and everyone around the side.
“It was a real team effort this year, and I think for little Samoa with a population of 180000 to be sixth in the world in the sevens standings, I thought was certainly a great accomplishment, and something that we should be proud of.”
Tietjens said when he took the job he knew Samoa would always be able to match teams physically.
"We’ve got no worries there because that’s a real strength of Samoan rugby and the people within it.
“The speed of the game was the real challenge, moving from rugby on the island to actually playing all these teams; New Zealand, Australia, England, that play the game a lot quicker."
He said the team has made giant strides in that area.
“Having to play the game at a high pace means you have to be fitter, conditioning levels certainly had to be a lot better than what they’ve possibly been in the past."
Tietjens also said having a contracted squad of players has been a major factor in the team's success.
The coach said before Samoa Rugby Union started giving contracts to players, they would often make the call to go play somewhere else around the world.
“But having them contracted and giving them some security has been certainly, I believe, also one of the main reasons we’re starting to really produce some consistent performances," Tietjens said.
He said locking players down for next year will be a key job over the next couple of months.
“Securing these players contractually so we’ve got a real core to build with towards the Olympics."
The Manu Samoa 7s' next competition is the Pacific Games in July, followed by the Oceania 7s Championship in November which will determine who qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.