04 Nov 14
It takes a Village to Rock the Sevens
Tietjens' sevens system has produced an astonishing 36 All Blacks during his 18 years in charge and he is looking to increase that number.
What does the coach consider when assessing new players? "First is his basic rugby skills, without which he'll get nowhere, and obviously speed is an important factor," he says. "Adding to that, he has to have vision and the ability to read games. I note his on-field attitude and work ethic, too.
"Then, when newcomers enter camp, we assess their response to hard conditioning, determination to reach utmost fitness and what motivates them. We soon get a good idea of who has the right credentials."
Tietjens, now 56, insists he will continue to oversee the New Zealand sevens squad for the foreseeable future. "I haven't any thoughts of stepping down. I gain huge satisfaction from developing young players and putting them on the path to successful careers in rugby. That is my main reward and the greatest motivation to stay," he says.
"And, of course, there is the Olympics to look forward to. Sevens' inclusion for 2016 has excited everyone involved in it. I would certainly relish taking New Zealand to Rio, though that is a secondary consideration. We've produced 36 All Blacks and I'd love to increase the figure."
There has been an assumption in recent years that sevens great Eric Rush - 16 Hong Kong Sevens appearances from 1988-2004 - is being groomed as a successor and Tietjens clearly regards him as his obvious heir apparent.
"Eric was an outstanding captain, is invaluable to me as an assistant and doubtless will make a wonderful coach," he acknowledges. "However, he has just launched a new business venture, which consumes the bulk of his time, and there is also after-dinner speaking, at which he is exceptionally talented.
"So, he couldn't contemplate the job at present. I understand the plan is for me to continue until 2016 and then the situation will be reviewed."
Tietjens, who is busy preparing his squad for this month's Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, where New Zealand are the defending champions, confirms he has seen extraordinary advancements over the last two decades.
"All sports have moved forward," he suggests. "I don't believe sevens to be unique in that. Physical preparation has advanced; greater emphasis is placed on nutrition, and technical expertise has improved beyond measure in virtually every sport.
"Nevertheless, sevens has shown exceptional advances in various areas. It is so competitive today, with numerous countries taking the sport seriously and the Olympics will naturally swell the number. Coaches throughout the world have never been more knowledgeable and the depth of playing talent expands year by year.
"Gifted footballers are attracted by the realisation sevens is a wonderful means for them to improve their abilities and serve as a springboard to even better things."
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