It probably seems like a while ago now, but how was your off season? What did you get up to?
I’ve been getting into golf* quite a bit more recently. I was a full on golfer when I was really young, and then rugby came along and growing up and a social life took over, so I had to put that on the back burner, but I’m now getting into it again. But year I spent a lot of my off season catching up with family and friends. I’m originally from Christchurch and I don’t get down there as much as I would like these days, so it was nice to catch up with everyone.
* Sam is on a three handicap! We think he’s got his career sorted post rugby.
Huge season coming up for you guys with the Olympics in this cycle. How has pre-season been?
Pre-season has been great. It’s been hard and long, but it’s been good. We played at the Oktoberfest tournament in Munich about a month ago, most of us hadn’t been there, so it was great to have a good blow out. We’ve been doing some heat chamber training at the Adams Centre in Mount Maunganui which has been great. That’s helping us get ready for the hot temperatures that we play in, but mainly for the Olympics. It’s supposed to be the hottest and most humid Olympic Games on record, so getting the body ready and used to that is great. Samoa came over and played us in a few games a couple of weeks ago and then team have just come back from our final pre-season tournament in Fiji.
You’re approaching your 50th tournament this season and all going to plan it will be in Cape Town, does the milestone feel like it’s crept up on you?
It has flown by. I was supposed to play in London last world series but injured my neck, so I didn’t get to play it, so I’ve been thinking about it for a while. It’s gone fast and it’s hard enough to get through one tournament let alone 50, so I guess it’s a pretty cool achievement. It’s taken me seven seasons I think, I’ve had my up and downs, but it’s been great.
Who have been some of the best players you’ve played alongside in the All Blacks Sevens set up?
Over the years I’ve played with some legends. Obviously, DJ Forbes, Tomasi Cama, who is coaching us now, Lote Raikabula also Tim Mikkelson who’s still going. Scott Curry recently brought up his 50th, and I’ve basically played my whole career with him which is cool.
What was your pathway like into the Sevens set up?
It was a bit of a random one. I was just playing club rugby in Canterbury for my club West Melton and then made the wider Canterbury team, but it was stacked with loose forwards down there, a lot of All Blacks and Crusaders players. I was never really going to get a look in, so they chucked me into a Sevens camp when Titch was coaching back in 2012 and then I never really looked back. I got contracted full time pretty much straight away and I’ve just stayed loyal to Sevens. They treated me well, and I was enjoying it so stuck at it and here I am eight years later.
Tell us about your broken nose at the Hamilton Sevens. Has it recovered all good and talk us through the whole thing?
Well I had actually broken it in 2016 in Vancouver and then got it fixed when I got home. Then three years later in Hamilton earlier this year, I just went into clean out and the guy’s knee came out of nowhere and flipped up and my head went straight into his kneecap which destroyed my nose and made it go sideways. It hurt at the time, but it didn’t hurt that much. It wasn’t going to stop me from running and tackling, so I wasn’t that phased. I realised how crooked it was when I touched it and then I eventually went off and they straightened it. At halftime I told the coach to let me back on and sort of tried to forget about it. I had to play in Sydney the following week and that was probably the sorest thing was getting it straightened. I ended up breaking it again in Las Vegas about four weeks later, almost the exact same way. I haven’t had a knock again since, touch wood I don’t break it again. I will definitely be getting plastic surgery at the end of my career.
What are the team’s expectations for this series? Is there constantly one eye on Tokyo?
Tokyo is our end goal, but we will just be taking it tournament by tournament and then hopefully the World Series will look after itself and we will finish up on top. Our biggest goal is Tokyo obviously, so getting the whole squad and each player ready for that is key. I’m guessing there might be some rotation of players, because the World Series consists of 10 tournaments and it is pretty hard for one player to play every tournament, physically and mentally. We will need rotation of players to get everyone ready for the Olympic Games in July.
The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens play alongside each other at the Dubai tournament which kicks off on Thursday 5 December.