The All Blacks Sevens training squad arrives in Mt Maunganui on Monday for a week-long camp to prepare for the next two tournaments of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Dubai (December 5-6) and Port Elizabeth (December 14-15).
The touring team will be named on Thursday. The squad is anchored by a core of experienced players who have been the mainstay of the All Blacks Sevens through recent seasons, including long serving captain DJ Forbes, 2013 IRB Sevens Player of the Year Tim Mikkelson, 2014 IRB Sevens Dream Team member Scott Curry and 2014 IRB Sevens Rookie of the Year Ambrose Curtis.
Head coach Gordon Tietjens will test the players' stamina and mental strength at Blake Park from Tuesday through Saturday.
There are six newcomers in the squad, including Bay of Plenty Steamers loose forward Joe Tupe. The first thing Tupe thought of when he was named in the All Blacks Sevens training squad was the Rio Olympic Games.
"When I was offered this opportunity the first thing that came into my mind was having the opportunity to go to the Olympics. It is definitely one of my goals," Tupe said.
"I am stoked about it. It is always hard to make Titch's squad but it is good the opportunity came by to hopefully play sevens for New Zealand. His trainings are really full-on so you have to look after your body. It comes down to self-management."
Tupe has a strong sevens background. He trained at Mount Maunganui with Tietjen's squad in September and played three seasons with Auckland at the national sevens tournament, winning two titles.
Other newbies include Jordan Bunce, 20, son of All Blacks legend Frank Bunce and Wellington loose forward Murphy Taramai. He came to Tietjen's attention during a recent Sydney sevens tournament and was a member of the Wellington Sevens team that took out the National Sevens title in January.
"I thought he was outstanding in Sydney playing for Wellington in the semi and final," Tietjens said. "He has all the attributes; strong, very physical, and of course has the pace factor on top of being a good defender so he really impressed me."