Three straight fifth placings frustrating for All Blacks Sevens

New Hitman Joe Ravouvou on the attack against Fiji during the Hong Kong tournament (photo: STUFF)

WELLINGTON New Zealand-April 18: 2:58pm(NZ Herald): The All Blacks Sevens are suffering from consistent results, but inconsistent performances.

Their fifth placing in Singapore over the weekend was their third straight fifth, and saw them win five games and drop just one, but it was the pivotal Cup quarter-final against eventual Cup champions Canada that did for them.

They still lie fourth overall, but it will be a push to overhaul Fiji and England into second on the World Series standings. Instead, they can only hope to win some big moments and matches next month and at least make a Cup final. Encouragingly, they did beat their nemesis and runaway series leaders South Africa 17-12 to clinch the fifth place final. That was their first defeat of the Blitzbokke in 2016-17.

Coach Scott Waldrom is frustrated, knowing his team played some strong sevens, as on most of day one, but then switched off defensively against Canada as Nathan Hirayama ran rings around them. By the end of the tournament, however, they were down to nine fit men, so they showed some fortitude.

“Twice we’ve lost in the Cup quarters to the team that has gone through to win the tournament, so it was a bittersweet feeling watching Canada win,” says Waldrom. “It’s especially frustrating when we lose to teams we should be beating.”

New Zealand have X-factor players with pace in Regan Ware, Joe Ravouvou and Vilimoni Koroi. The latter has skill and a deep bag of tricks, but Waldrom has not overplayed him as he is still learning about international sevens. Ware was outstanding in Singapore, but there were also unheralded displays from the likes of Trael Joass and Lewis Ormond.

It is not a simple matter of overhauling playing personnel or strategy. There is a group of 20 contracted players and it would be a surprise if they went outside that group to introduce a player with no recent sevens background. They just have to do better with what they have.

“I think we have a squad that can win the World Series, but we just have to get things right with our consistency and planning,” Waldrom said.

He could have added that players need to bring the right mindset and mental toughness when they step out for every game, to avoid falling as they did against Canada.

The likes of Tim Mikkelson and Scott Curry, and possibly Joe Webber and Iopu Iopu-Aso, injured in Singapore, will return for the next event in Paris on May 13-14 and the aim is to finish with a flourish, so incoming coach Clark Laidlaw has more to build on when he gets his feet under the desk on June 1.



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