Most successful team in history not doomed to Olympic failure.

Back the truck up just a second. If you thought the US twice beating the All Blacks sevens side in Dubai was crazy, that result has nothing on some of the reaction to it.

All of a sudden, the most successful sevens team in the history of the game is not only doomed to Olympic failure, but may be taking down the All Blacks name with it.

Quite how the All Blacks sevens side - losing semifinalists in Dubai - are damaging the All Blacks' "brand" is beyond me. This is the same "brand" that has won almost every world series to date and holds both men's and women's world titles.

This is the same "brand" that has, almost without exception, annually discovered and promoted talent to the 15-a-side "real" All Blacks.


There is extreme pressure on the New Zealand sevens programme, not to live up to any "brand" but to withstand the intensity of Olympic year. That pressure is largely due to the programme's own scarcely-believable historical record.

The women have been the dominant force in the game since the formation of their own world series, and there is no other side that comes close to the achievements of Sir Gordon Tietjens' teams over the past two decades, achievements that, in my opinion, deserve greater recognition than they receive.

What other side in the national game could be so successful while being so heavily hindered by priority?

For many years, most Super Rugby players have been off-limits, most New Zealand under-20 players have been off-limits, and good luck searching for All Blacks. Nothing has changed. Not even when the ultimate prize is an Olympic gold medal - a New Zealand Rugby strategic goal.

This fact is conveniently forgotten in the argument that the sides (and the game) lack star power but the truth is members of those teams have been forced into increased specialisation by the priority treatment of the 15-a-side game.

That priority treatment is, in one sense, understandable. Super Rugby and the All Blacks are the earners for New Zealand Rugby and that commercial imperative alone makes the sevens game a poor cousin, but there are also some in positions of genuine influence in the game here in New Zealand who would like sevens to go away entirely. That strikes me as ludicrous.

Last weekend the 29th annual Condor Sevens were held in West Auckland. As many as 63 teams, including 33 under-15 teams, took part in these national secondary school championships, with Hamilton Boys' High School and Hamilton Girls' High School taking top honours. Much of the sevens on display was outrageously good.

No player or spectator at the Condors would question the value or the legitimacy of that tournament or the sport itself.

In fact, some of the schools involved would struggle through numbers or interest to field a competitive 15-a-side team. This tournament is crucial to them, and it should be treasured.

And the New Zealand sevens programmes deserve to be treasured, too, rather than being written off after one poor tournament or accused of squatting on the All Blacks brand.

The reason USA rugby are so excited about last weekend is that they beat the biggest name in the game. Do you think for a second they'd be that pumped up if they had defeated Wales or Kenya?

That the brace of victories has been hailed by American rugby patrons as a breakthrough moment for their team should not give rise to the fear that the All Blacks "brand" has been weakened. Conversely, it proves yet again how powerful that brand is. That US team also defeated South Africa on their way to a third-place showing in Dubai. Funnily enough, that barely rated a mention.

The All Blacks sevens side are now hammered by injuries as they prepare to bounce back from their poor season opener. Oh, for some genuine player resources to fill the void. If only this side had what the All Blacks have - apart from the name, and the legacy, of course.