Those who know what makes All Black Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens tick know it would be foolish to write off his team's medal chances at the Rio Olympics.

There are plenty of doom and gloom merchants who will tell you the All Black Sevens' third placing in the 2015-16 IRB World Series, 23 points behind winners Fiji, is an indication Tietjens' lads won't make the podium next month. Those who know Tietjens, the bloke who has guided his troops to four golds and one silver at Commonwealth Games level, two World Cup crowns and 12 World Series titles, will tell you he has deliberately kept a few moves and tricks up his sleeve for Rio.

"There's a bit of that. But there have also been a lot of injuries, so we haven't had a settled team during the series," Hawke's Bay's sole member of the Rio-bound squad, Gillies Kaka, explained.

"A few key guys came back towards the end of the series and they were pushing hard to get their fitness up and put their best foot forward," Kaka said, before the team travelled to Florida on Sunday for a week-long training camp before the trip south to Rio.


Havelock North pivot Kaka, who has been in the national Sevens squad since 2013, is confident the Kiwis will give the top spot on the podium a serious crack.

"There's some of us who are still hurting about the silver at the last Commonwealth Games. Some would be satisfied with that silver but not us ... gold in Rio would be the ideal way of making that silver a distant memory."

Kaka, 26, is one of seven players from the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games who got the nod for Rio. Captain Scott Curry, former skipper DJ Forbes, Sam Dickson, Akira Ioane, Tim Mikkelson and Joe Webber are the others.

Although it would have ranked as another shock omission if Kaka had not been selected, the Palmerston North Boys' High School and New Plymouth Boys' High School product said he had not been counting his chickens.

"You never know with Titch. I had to wait with everyone else. It was the most nervous I had been before a team naming," Kaka recalled. "Making this squad has been the goal since I first played in the series. It's going to be awesome, a different experience and because there has been such a big build up I can't wait to get there and play."

The Kiwis are in the same pool as Kenya, Japan and Great Britain. The top two teams from the three pools will qualify for the quarterfinals along with the next best two teams on points across all three pools.

"At the Commonwealth Games we got a couple of easy games first up. At the Olympics we will have hard games from the get-go. It doesn't matter who you play because to win gold you have to beat every team you play from the quarterfinal stage and we all know it comes down to how you perform on the day."

A former Magpie who played 31 first class games for the Bay, either at fullback or on the wing before sevens became his sole form of income, Kaka has heard talk suggesting the disruption caused by All Blacks coming in and out of the sevens squad may have been a contributing factor to their distant third placing during the last World Series. But he disagreed.

"Everyone just got on with their job. It didn't change much ... Titch is used to bringing guys in and sending them out."

With his partner, Shiray Tane, one of two reserves for the New Zealand Women's Sevens squad in Rio there is a chance the pair could both strut their stuff at Olympic Games level.

"The women's team's 13th and 14th players are just like ours. They don't stay in the village but are on stand by in case of injury ... Shiray has got to train hard and hope she gets a chance.

"It's been awesome having a partner with the same goals. It's easy to get up and go to trainings and we know what each other is going through. It would be pretty cool if we both end up playing in Rio."

His parents, former Maori All Black Charlie Kaka and mum Mahe, decided against making the trip to Rio. "It was too late notice and too much hassle for them."

Unlike Curry, Forbes, Dickson, Mikkelson and Webber, Kaka has yet to sign a New Zealand Rugby contract through to the end of 2018.

"I just want to see how I feel after the Olympics. Going back to 15s is an option."