With the All Blacks Sevens team down in numbers due to player injuries, organisers of this weekend's TECT National Sevens are expecting performance levels of those competing to be even higher as players look for opportunities to fill those spots.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's Ian Parata, who is the tournament's match-day manager, says performance levels are always high at the annual competition but with places on the national side needing to be filled, players know achieving national honours is a possible reality.
The TECT National Sevens will see 16 men's teams and 12 women's teams representing 16 provincial unions after qualifying for the national event at the Northern, Central and Southern Regional Qualifiers tournament. Teams will compete for top honours at the Tauranga Domain, with pool play on Saturday and finals matches on Sunday.
Not only will silverware be handed to the country's top sevens Unions, Parata says it is also a key talent identification event for players eyeing higher honours. New Zealand Sevens selectors will be on hand to identify players for selection into the 2019 development teams.
"It's an exciting time, there are lots of opportunities for players now with the number of injuries to the All Blacks Sevens team so they're all going to be wanting to put their best show on and playing to get a black jersey this weekend," Parata said.
In the men's division, Tasman, Wellington and Counties Manukau topped their respective qualifying events, with defending champions Waikato finishing second in their Northern Region tournament.
South Canterbury and Wairarapa Bush join the 14 Mitre 10 Cup Unions to round out the 2018 men's competitors.
Women's defending champions, Manawatu, led the charge in the Central Region qualifier with Farah Palmer Cup Premiership champions Canterbury winning the Southern event and Auckland topping the Northern tournament.
Parata said he and everyone involved including Bay of Plenty Rugby Union staff had put in long hours over recent weeks to ensure the event would be ready for this weekend and he was excited for it to get under way. The operations team has Offering a Player's Village, he said the venue would look "fantastic".
"We've had to build all the infrastructure, we've built a Player's Village, we're excited by that and it looks fantastic, the whole team's excited, We're nervous but excited," Parata said.
"We'll focus on players, player enjoyment and families."
With more than 500 players and members of the national sevens teams attending, Parata is expecting thousands of people to flock to the tournament each day, estimating up to 7000 attending over the two days depending on the weather.
Tournament Director David Pearce said the introducing the national sevens to Tauranga, with is being held in Rotorua for the last five years, not only provides a new venue for the tournament it's also provides a new timeframe of December. It was previously held in January.
He said organisers were really keen to embrace the family-friendly atmosphere, providing a family fun zone with markets, a water slide, pony rides and plenty of entertainment for kids as well as the parents.
"The family fun zone is an exciting element to the tournament," Pearce said.
"We're really excited about putting on the event."
Pearce encouraged members of the Tauranga community to come out and support the Bay of Plenty men's and women's teams as they take on the other provinces in the competition.
TECT National Sevens tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for students, $5 for children under 15 and under-fives free. Tickets are available from Dash Tickets with family concessions also available.
TECT National Sevens by the numbers:
16 men's teams
12 women's teams
2 fields operating
28 ball boys/girls
First National Sevens was played in 1975
Neither the BOP men's or BOP women's team have won a national sevens title
The 2018 TECT National Sevens men's teams:
Bay of Plenty
The 2018 TECT National Sevens women's teams:
Bay of Plenty