Sevens: Kaka's freebie tickets for parents

By Shane Hurndell

Gillies Kaka's phone has been ringing non-stop since his selection in the All Black Sevens team for this weekend's Wellington leg of the World Series was announced last night.

The Hawke's Bay Magpies outside back said most of the calls had been from Wairarapa-based relatives hoping to score free tickets to one of the country's most popular sporting attractions.

"I tell them I only get a couple of free tickets and they are for Mum and Dad," Kaka said, referring to former New Zealand Maori and Wairarapa Bush midfield back Charlie Kaka and his mother, Maahi.

"Being a new boy in the team, I don't want to ask for any more freebies," Kaka said.

While Kaka, 22, set the Wellington leg as his goal after being named as one of 16-contracted All Black Sevens players a month ago, he said hearing his name read out was still a "pretty surreal experience".

"I've worked hard under Titch [All Black Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens] and I'm getting the rewards.

"Now I've got to try not to let him down," Kaka said.

This month Kaka and fellow HBS Bank Hawke's Bay Sevens rep Trinity Spooner-Neera played for the New Zealand Emerging Players team at the Uprising tournament in Fiji.

He played the pivot and centre roles in the side who lost to Fiji in the semifinals and he is likely to be used in both positions this weekend.

The Palmerston North Boys' High School product is happy with his fitness levels. since going into camp with the team.

Kaka is also happy with how he is sticking to the correct nutrition habits.

"You have to ... it's pretty easy to stay on task," he said.

Kaka is one of two new caps in the team who again include former Magpie Lote Raikabula. Aucklander Rocky Khan is the other new cap.

Kaka is the third Havelock North player to gain New Zealand Sevens selection.

Kirk Wotherspoon in 1996 and Tony Maidens in 1995 were the others.

Former Magpie Mark Jackman, who was outstanding in the capital last year, was one of four players ruled out through injury. Scott Curry, Toby Arnold and Milford Keresoma were the others.

Tietjens said his squad had been tough to select, given the competition within the wider squad and the improving form of his young tyros.

"The squad has worked really hard coming into Wellington and it's always a pretty special tournament for the players, but as is always the case we have had to make some hard decisions," Tietjens said.

"We have got a lot to build on, given our good start to the season, and I know the guys are really excited about playing in front of a home crowd. We won last year in Wellington, so it would be fantastic to back up last year's victory.

"But we will have to work hard. The competition is getting tougher every year and our competitors will be looking to make up ground on us here, so it will be a challenging two days."

New Zealand lead the international series after three tournaments. This weekend's event starts on Friday, with the finals to be played on Saturday.

New Zealand squad: Kurt Baker (Taranaki), Tomasi Cama (Manawatu), Sam Dickson (Canterbury), DJ Forbes (captain, Counties Manukau), Gillies Kaka (Hawke's Bay), Rocky Khan (Auckland), Ben Lam (Auckland), Luke Masirewa (Waikato), Tim Mikkelson (Waikato), Lote Raikabula (Wellington), David Raikuna (North Harbour), Belgium Tuatagaloa (Canterbury)

- Hawkes Bay Today

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