Rugby: Kaka's excelled, says Tietjens

By APNZ


New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens says Hawke's Bay Magpie Gillies Kaka earned his selection after he "excelled" at the nationals.

Kaka and Auckland's Rocky Khan were the new faces announced on Monday.

Tietjens, who has an uncanny knack for unearthing eye-popping talent at the event in the capital, said Kaka also impressed during last year's ITM Cup.

"Talking to Gillies prior to the nationals, I talked about what I wanted from him and he's certainly got out and excelled and he excelled at the nationals," Tietjens said.

"I've since contracted Gillies because of that. He's just impressed and he's also someone that's now into his third year, does know the game, and again, he's taken that ITM Cup form with Hawke's Bay into the sevens environment so, again, another opportunity for someone who is a very talented footballer."

Aside from Khan and Kaka, 18-year-old Luke Masirewa, Canterbury's Sam Dickson and Belgium Tuatagaloa will be playing in Wellington for the first time, although the last three have played for New Zealand.

Tietjens also said to look out for Aucklander Ben Lam, who had played two tournaments in this year's series, including the last one in South Africa at which the series-leading New Zealanders took the spoils.

New Zealand have won the Wellington leg of the sevens series for the past two years and always have massive hometown support on finals day on the Saturday. They are grouped with England, Spain and the United States in Pool A and open their campaign against the English at 3.12pm on Friday.

Tietjens said the experienced players in the New Zealand side, such as DJ Forbes, Tim Mikkelson and Kurt Baker, would make a point of keeping the rookies in check this week.

"It's a big tournament. There are a lot of pressures and the pressure to do well, obviously, with the passionate rugby crowd that we'll have behind us.

"But we've done well the last two years and this year it's about the younger players keeping their feet on the ground," Tietjens said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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