The All Blacks Sevens will be anxious to erase yesterday in Las Vegas from the memory banks after they crashed out of Cup contention and lost Sonny Bill Williams from next weekend's tournament in Vancouver.
So slick on day one, New Zealand scored only one try in two games in one of their darkest days on the sevens circuit. Kenya whitewashed them 22-0 in their final pool match, one of the flattest New Zealand displays in many moons. It was as though New Zealand had eaten an especially heavy breakfast, such was their lethargy.
There was a clear improvement and more commitment in the Cup quarter-final against South Africa, but there were still far too many errors in contact and in their long passing game. A first stanza double to Seabelo Senatla rocked them at 0-14 and, despite a Lewis Ormond try, Tim Mikkelson's men could not consistently threaten the line and were beaten 14-7.
Looking forward to getting home to my family, God willing i'm back out there come HongKong.— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) March 6, 2016
Liam Messam had started this match, after being used sparingly off the bench in the pool games, but the All Black, in his first sevens outing in six years, could make little impact. It was felt his extra physicality could compensate for New Zealand's lack of top-end pace. But it was not to be.
Williams was said to have been rested for the Las Vegas event, which appeared strange given he needs more sevens game time. But it transpired he was carrying a minor leg injury which then flared up yesterday morning.
"We were not prepared to risk Sonny in Vancouver, especially as we're again playing on artificial turf which could have worked against him," said coach Gordon Tietjens.
"We therefore thought it was best he return home and get the right treatment and support he needs to speed his recovery."
Williams will be replaced by Bay of Plenty's Teddy Stanaway.
New Zealand will now face Argentina in this morning's Plate semifinal, kickoff 9.20am NZT. The Cup semifinals see hosts USA pitted against Fiji, who have recovered from their day one upset at the hands of Samoa, and South Africa versus Argentina, which may see Bryan Habana up against Quade Cooper, two more veterans gunning for the Rio Olympics.
South Africa 14 (Seabelo Senatla 2 tries; Justin Geduld con)
New Zealand 7 (Lewis Ormond try; Kurt Baker con)