Longtime New Zealand Rugby Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens fears Canterbury is blocking player progress by not fronting for this weekend’s National Sevens.
“I’m very disappointed Canterbury can’t put a team in there, particularly with the talent they have within their region,” Tietjens says.
Canterbury is a “powerhouse province” that recently won the Air NZ Cup and wouldn’t have to travel far, he notes.
“There are other teams really wanting to be part of this tournament, teams like [minor North Island union] Horowhenua-Kapiti.
“Sevens, certainly for any loose forward or any back, can really launch their career.”
Canterbury has pulled the pin for financial reasons and has farmed out some players to other teams in this weekend’s big event.
However, Tietjens is still concerned Canterbury’s move is “perhaps stopping some players from getting recognition”.
Queenstown’s annual tournament excites him because he gets to unearth new talent.
One who emerged here was Edwin Cocker who played for an Otago invitation side, Tietjens recalls.
“He was a very very good player for me.”
The national coach will again study talent over this weekend’s 44 games but he also relies on provinces tipping him off about rising stars “because you can’t view every player at every minute”.
Having coached NZ to eight world series titles since 1994, Tietjens confirms his contract runs out after October’s Commonweath Games in New Delhi – his teams have won gold at the last three Games.
“I’m certainly going to take one year at a time”, he says – though he’s already been sounded out by both China and the United States to coach their teams at the sport’s Olympics debut in 2016.
“For the excitement factors and [the fact] players can express themselves on the rugby field, [sevens] is going to get more popular.”
Pressed to pick this weekend’s winner, Tietjens nominates Waikato or his home province Bay of Plenty.
He’s enthusiastic about the Queenstown tournament: “I’ve really enjoyed it here, I think you get a lot of support, the spectators are very close and I think the players really look forward to it as well.
“I’m obviously really happy it’s still here.”
And if Tietjens gets some spare time this weekend? “If I can play a bit of tennis, I will.”