Spotlight likely to turn on ace Kaka

By SHANE HURNDELL


HAWKE'S BAY'S sole All Black Sevens representative Gillies Kaka will hog the limelight during today's second day of play at the Wellington leg of the World Series.

That's the prediction of his Hawke's Bay and Havelock North manager Conrad Waitoa following Kaka's 10 seconds of action during his All Black Sevens debut - a 36-5 win against Spain at the Cake Tin last night.

"Gillies always comes into his own on the second day of two-day tournaments. Look what he did for the Bay at the Queenstown nationals last month ... He was unstoppable and must have pushed his New Zealand teammate David Raikuna hard for the player-of-the-tournament award," Waitoa said.

"Remember the 2011 Queenstown nationals when Gillies and Star [Timu] carved up. Gillies was the tournament's top tryscorer and again just pipped for the player-of-the-tournament award."

Speaking before the All Black Sevens took on the United States in their final pool game last night, Waitoa said he wasn't surprised New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens gave Kaka limited time during the first two games.

"Titch knows what Gillies will be able to contribute at the business end and I have no doubt he will be on the team's plane on Monday to Las Vegas for the next tournament. I just hope he will still be able to play for us [Havelock North] at the Hawke's Bay tournament in Waipukurau the week after."

During Kaka's 10 seconds against Spain he had three touches and set up teammate Belgium Tuatagaloa of Canterbury for the final try in the 36-5 victory.

"I was surprised Gillies opted to pass. He could have scored himself but obviously didn't want to be seen as greedy in his first outing for the team," Waitoa said.

Waitoa pointed out Kaka was benefiting from the tremendous amount of Sevens work put into him by Hawke's Bay and Havelock North Sevens mentor Murdoch Paewai since Kaka, 22, linked up with the villagers in 2009 after leaving Palmerston North Boys' High School.

A son of former New Zealand Maori and Wairarapa-Bush midfield back, Charlie Kaka, Kaka is already the 15th top points scorer in 15s rugby for the Havelock North premiers with 269 points from 43 tries, 15 conversions and eight penalties.

Napier Boys' High School product and former Hawke's Bay Sevens squad member Glen Rolls played for Spain.

The All Black Sevens had a surprise 19-14 loss to England in their first pool game. Tietjens stuck with the same starting line-up for the Spain match.

While the experienced hands again appeared a little rusty, newcomers like Kaka and Aucklander Rocky Khan, who scored a cracker of a try with his first touch, were classy.

Tietjens put his side's rustiness down to the seven-week lay-off between tournaments. His men looked scrappy in their opening two games.

New Zealand's last tournament was in South Africa in early December but the world series took a long break over the Christmas and New Year period.

"They're just real rusty. That gap between when we played our last two tournaments and this is huge," Tietjens said following his side's win over Spain. "This is huge the work you do between and perhaps we need more games together so it's pretty tough and even in our second game against Spain, while it may have been convincing in the end, it certainly wasn't competent the way we played. There were still a lot of areas where our accuracy's just not where it should be."

New Zealand's young bucks were impressive during the second spell of the victory against Spain and Rocky Khan and Luke Masirewa were particularly impressive. "That's what you want from the bench," Tietjens said.

"You can never underestimate any of the teams and I think we probably just couldn't get up for the first one like we should have. But give some credit to England because they're a good side, they've got a lot of firepower in there as well but we were up against a good defence. But we turned that around and we still put 30-odd points on Spain and Spain's a team that has beaten England in the past."

New Zealand lead the world series standings after three rounds and are two-time defending champions in the Wellington leg.

Tietjens said his side needed to click during the rest of the weekend if they wanted to achieve a three-peat in the capital for the second time after they won a hat-trick of tournaments between 2003 and 2005. "We've got to dominate when we've got the ball in contact, [get] quick ball and dominate and that's probably the real area for us. It's also about defence, which is where you dominate in the tackle, post tackle and give them the go forward, that's really key in sevens because the quality of possession and the amount of possession is massive."

Kurt Baker has been in good form for New Zealand with two tries in the opening two games, while pivot Tomasi Cama was at his creative best in the first half against Spain.

New Zealand looked nervous during the opening outing against England. The first day of the tournament threw out a few upsets with Fiji failing to make the cup quarter-finals for the first time in 14 years on the international circuit. Kenya were the surprise package of the day as they won their three group games to top Pool B. Samoa went unbeaten in Pool C and moved through to the knockout stages, while Australia and Scotland qualified for the quarter-finals from Pool D.

Action gets under way today at 1pm with the cup final due to be played at 9.30pm.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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