Sir Gordon Tietjens talked tactics after the Fijian loss and said the weather was a leveller, but when it comes to altering strategy and leading the way with an alternate approach, Titch would like to think he has one of the better minds on the circuit.
Adaptation is everything
Tietjens will be quick to point out certain mantras that are the planks to Sevens success, and possession has always been an area where the super coach has said is king, while kicking is something not usually utilised by the series champions.
However this is not a team that leaves certain aspects of the contest away from the training field, and a team that prides itself on retaining the ball was happy to shift their tactical blueprint and kick for territory while causing chaos at the breakdown.
It isn’t just about speed
As always there is nothing quite as attractive in Sevens as watching two individuals empty their running tanks in a mad dash to the line, such opportunities are often frequent thanks to the extra space afforded thanks to lack of 16 players that would usually be on the field of play.
The All Blacks Sevens, hardly without a skip of pace themselves, didn’t win Wellington with speed. They were successful with a brutal assault on the tackle area and a palette of approaches including patience, smart kicking while co-ordinating what were effectively kill and turnover areas around the breakdown.
It is still rugby…
If it wasn’t scenes at the ruck that resembled XVs at times, there were six man scrums shunting back and forth, key big men exerting dominance in the air, while there were snipers ensuring that kick offs landed in crucial zones allowed contestable possession.
Running fast and fancy is all well and good, but the All Blacks Sevens took a page from the ‘full’ version of the game and applied classical rugby tactics and enforced an overall package that was beyond any other team in the tournament – in the end if anything the rain was far from a leveller, but an advantage perhaps.
It is a game for all shapes and sizes
There have been some strong All Blacks Sevens teams over the eras, but one struggles to recall a team which resembled a seven man version of all the positions on the rugby field – from the power play of Ben Lam, to the lanky nimbleness of Tim Mikkelson, the muscular presence of DJ Forbes, or the navigators such as Gillies Kaka and Tomasi Cama.
It is a balanced team that proves having heavy ball carriers like Lam, or aerial exponents like Mikkelson, is crucial beyond have sprinters. This has allowed Sir Gordon Tietjens to get his troops to adapt and play whatever style, with whatever body type, when required.
It is still a multi field despite the return of home rights
Five straight matches, essentially 80 consecutive minutes, of holding all opposition scoreless, including the likes of South Africa and England, shouldn’t confuse the fact that this is a close season, with the All Blacks Sevens just retaking the series lead, by only two points.
Their win over the Blitzbokke in the Cup decider was New Zealand’s first victory over their great rivals in this form of rugby in six matches, but the All Blacks Sevens are re-establishing their fortress in their own country, it was their third title in four years and seventh overall.