When things get frantic at Rio's Deodoro Stadium next month, New Zealand mens sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens will be looking to one player in particular to rectify things - DJ Forbes, the rock around which he will build his game.

Forbes, 33, and the most experienced sevens player ever with 391 World Series sevens matches behind him, possesses a rare mix of qualities which are likely to be crucial in New Zealand's hunt for a gold medal.

He is tough, as anyone who has watched him at the breakdown will testify, but he also has handling skills, pace and an innate knowledge of the game which probably makes him look even faster, a bit like Richie McCaw in his latter years. Crucially, he is also a brilliant defender.

Being able to survive so long on the international sevens circuit under Tietjens' notorious training regimes also suggests he is very fit, and a "re-conditioning" strategy whereby he missed the Singapore and London tournaments of this year's World Series has taken that to a new level.


Following the Hong Kong tournament in April, in which Forbes played a significant part in helping his team to the final, which they lost to Fiji, he travelled home for a rest rather than to Singapore for the next one, and in London he trained, rather than played. The time away from the playing field allowed Forbes to get over a calf niggle and now he is ready to go.

"He has been training particularly hard and is very, very fit and raring to go," Tietjens said. "That's exactly where I wanted him, because he has that vital experience - he has been to Commonwealth Games. But at the same time, before he got injured, he was playing very well.

"DJ knows the game inside out. And the game has changed since 2010 [when New Zealand won Commonwealth Games gold in Delhi] - it's changed so much - but DJ has continued to play the game and conditioning-wise he is in fantastic condition at the moment. I'm looking for big things from him because he proved to me what he can do.

When we won in Canada he was simply outstanding, when we [made final] in Hong Kong, unbelievable, and again I'd expect no different going to Rio."

New Zealand's point of difference at Rio will be their size, power, and willingness to make life difficult for their opponents at the breakdown.

Other nations don't compete much there, preferring instead to put more bodies in the defensive line than the ruck, but New Zealand under Tietjens make their opponents work for every possession. And in the middle of it all, with his gleaming bald head and bushy miner's beard, is Forbes.

He stepped down as captain last year in order to concentrate on getting to Rio. Now he is nearly there and he will be leading from the front.

Most World Series matches played:
DJ Forbes (NZ) 391
Uale Mai (Samoa) 359
Collins Injera (Kenya) 347
Also: (10th) Tim Mikkelson (NZ) 302; (12th) Lote Raikabula (NZ) 292; (14th) Tomasi Cama (NZ) 281.