It is small steps for Sir Gordon Tietjens in his new role as coach of the Samoan Sevens team.

Lying a lowly 12th on the World Series table after two legs, the only way is up for Samoa, and it starts with the Wellington tournament next weekend in a pool shared with New Zealand, USA and France. Qualification for the Cup quarter-finals, by virtue of finishing in the top two, would delight Tietjens, who officially started his job on January 1.

For the past fortnight, his charges have been training hard in his back yard of Mt Maunganui, and Tietjens himself feels refreshed with his new job.

"I'm very pleased. We've got 18 out here, all bar two are from the island, and we're giving them that experience of operating here in New Zealand with higher intensity and it's probably a quicker game here too," he says. "It's coming. It's not a quick fix, but it's really promising."


Those who know Tietjens will be unsurprised that he has identified fitness and nutrition as key work-ons for the Samoans, so they should be in good nick when they hit Wellington on Tuesday.

Those two New Zealand based players are Auckland's Ed Fidow and Wellington Tomasi Alosio, both of whom appeared for their provinces at last weekend's nationals.

Many of the squad played in the Mt Maunganui Sevens a fortnight ago, reaching the Cup final under the guise of the Samoan Barbarians.

He has long- and short-term goals with this team.

"Our main goal is to get to the next Olympics in 2020 and to do that you have to grow and secure the youngsters. It's a challenging position to be in, but probably a little less pressure than I had when coaching New Zealand," says Tietjens, who would know after 22 years in the hot seat.

"With Wellington, it's a really tough pool. We're fourth seeds, and it would exceed expectations to make the Cup quarters," he says.

Tietjens' right-hand man is former Manu Samoa coach and the man who guided Samoa to their sole World Series Sevens title in 2010, Stephen Betham. He is based in Samoa and has a strong handle on the talent coming out of the villages. To some, the fall of Samoan sevens status since 2010 has been perplexing, and the failure to qualify for Rio was a heavy blow for a proud nation.

"There just isn't the depth at the moment. All those players with whom they won the World Series are all playing (15s) offshore now in Europe and Japan," Tietjens offers by way of explanation.

He is working closely with Manu Samoa coach Alama Ieremia, who has a similar repair job to haul them back up the rankings from their current position of 15.

"Alama has got a 10s tournament (in Brisbane next month) in which he may or may not be using a couple of my players."

In summary, Tietjens is loving being back doing hands-on coaching after the heartache of Rio.

"I feel really energised. I've got a four-year goal with them, but I want to see major improvement from each tournament."

While the Samoan Rugby Union have had their issues with governance in the past, Tietjens - who has a four year deal up until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics - laughed when asked if he had been paid on time. It seems the level of support he is getting from the union, through the general manager of rugby Brian Hopley, formerly of Southland, is solid and professional.