Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

NZ Sevens teams ready for fresh campaign under new coaches

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Scott Curry. Photo/File
Scott Curry. Photo/File

In a year that promised so much for both the men's and women's teams hoping to win gold at Rio, 2016 did not go to plan for New Zealand Sevens.

And the challenges continue with Tauranga-based coaches Sir Gordon Tietjens and Sean Horan both stepping down from their respective roles as men's and women's coaches after the Olympics.

Into the breach come new head coaches Clive Laidlaw and Allan Bunting, who are from vastly different backgrounds.

Laidlaw is from Scotland with limited knowledge of New Zealand systems, while for Rotorua local Bunting the transition is much easier as he has been Horan's right-hand man for five years.

For the opening two rounds of the HSBC World Series, in Dubai next week and Cape Town December 10-11, the men's team will be led by assistant coach Scott Waldron and captain Scott Curry.

Curry, who went to Reporoa College and lives in Papamoa, says there is a new energy in the team.

"The boys are excited about getting out there in Dubai and enjoying our rugby. There is a re-energised buzz in the team and a real feeling of excitement about the upcoming series," he said.

"Those of us who have been around a while have a new enthusiasm for the team and are taking more of a leadership role with the younger guys. It's great to be building a new team environment focused on our goals for the next four years.

"We are hurting from Rio, we have learnt a lot, but you can't dwell on the past.

"We have been training hard this week and are excited about getting back into tournament mode. We want to capitalise on the exciting new energy in the squad and translate that into success on the field in Dubai."

Bunting played sevens for Bay of Plenty and New Zealand, and had a fine career in the Steamers jersey.

He sees the 2016-2017 campaign as building the foundations for long-term success. "Dubai kicks off our new journey to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. There is a real sense of excitement and we can't wait to get going.

"Having sevens introduced as an Olympic sport has changed the game. It means we now operate on a four-year preparation cycle and it has created a new pathway for athletes to become Olympians.

"We are building a player-led culture where everyone enjoys themselves and in turn plays great rugby. Our team focus for Dubai is kaha and whakawhetai - courage and gratitude. We want to front the challenge and learn from what we do and be grateful for the opportunity we have each day and represent our country with pride.

"Our goal for the opening two tournaments of the series is to get some wins on the board and to build a player-led team environment where people feel confident expressing themselves on the field and play great rugby. This is about developing both the team dynamic and the game plan to win gold in Tokyo in 2020.

"We want to peak at pinnacle events so this is the start of our build-up to the Rugby World Cup Sevens, Commonwealth Games and Olympics. Our objectives in this series are about getting the right attitudes and team environment in place."

Sevens teams named
Four new players have been named in the Black Ferns Sevens squad picked by new head coach Allan Bunting for the opening tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series in Dubai next week.
Women's team: Ruby Tui, Shakira Baker, Jordon Webber, Niall Williams, Sarah Goss (captain), Michaela Blyde, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Kelly Brazier, Tenika Willison*, Katarina Whata-Simpkins, Portia Woodman, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga*. Travelling reserves: Jess Drummond*, Danielle Paenga*
Unavailable: Kayla McAlister, Gayle Broughton, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Shiray Tane, Stacey Waaka, Terina Te Tamaki, Lesley Ketu and (retired) Huriana Manuel, Carla Hohepa and Honey Hireme.
Meanwhile the All Blacks Sevens men's team has been named for the first two tournaments of the 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens World Series in Dubai (December 2-3) and Cape Town (December 10-11).
The team is captained by Bay of Plenty's Scott Curry with Teddy Stanaway and Joe Weber, also from Bay of Plenty, unavailable through injury.
Scott Curry (Captain), Tim Mikkelson, Antonio Kiri Kiri, DJ Forbes, Dylan Collier, Beaudein Waaka, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Rocky Khan, Sherwin Stowers, Jonathan Ruru*, Isaac Te Tamaki, Sione Molia.
*New cap.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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