Kris Shannon: What can be made of sevens defeat?

New Zealand Scott Curry, middle, amongst teammates who stand dejected after losing to South Africa. Photo / Greg Bowker
New Zealand Scott Curry, middle, amongst teammates who stand dejected after losing to South Africa. Photo / Greg Bowker

It says something about this loss that, despite New Zealand winning three gold medals today, the most significant story from today's action is a silver.

The recriminations of this country's first sevens defeat at a Commonwealth Games would have begun as soon as Akira Ioane knocked on with only seconds remaining and his side down by five, slumping to the Ibrox turf as an ebullient South Africa booted the ball into touch.

What went wrong? What does it mean for Rio? Did the team really need Super Rugby reinforcements after all?

All valid questions but, first, the discussion they elicit should come with the caveat that captain DJ Forbes explained after the game: sevens is a fickle sport and anything can happen in a one-off game. While New Zealand's consistency shines through on the world series circuit, that counts for little in medal matches like the one they just lost.

The defeat may even provide some positives for Gordon Tietjens' men - though the coach will struggle to see anything resembling the sort as he trudges off into the cool Glasgow night.

For one, forget any thought of a guaranteed gold in Rio. That was always a misguided mindset, coming more from the public than the team, and South Africa's triumph means complacency will play no part in the build-up to the sport's Olympic debut.

And when that team does get picked in two years' time, Tietjens may now rethink his selection. Not necessarily when it comes to the recruitment of Super Rugby players - although what the coach would have given for the chance to call on someone like Ben Smith in that second half, like he could in Delhi - but certainly surrounding the squad's make-up.

The sevens guru is a loyal man but he bladed two of his most experienced veterans when selecting this squad, favouring the X-factor provided by youngsters.

Already missing Kurt Baker through injury, the cool heads of Tomasi Cama and Lote Raikabula could have come in handy when New Zealand fell behind. That pair certainly would have known to put the ball out at the end of the first half, when instead the defending champions inexplicably allowed South Africa to score the try that hauled them back into the match.

Tietjens, ever the perfectionist, will question his players' decision in those moments before halftime as much as his own in the days before naming the squad.

Both contributed to the perfect record coming to an end and both ensured victories for Sophie Pascoe, Jo Edwards and Shane Archbold would receive a little less attention than most gold medals.

- NZ Herald

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