Building Depth in Samoa Sevens Four Year Plan for Tietjens

Wellington IRB Sevens - Day 2

Speaking yesterday to rugby sevens ‘Super-Coach’ Sir Gordon Tietjens, his vision is as clear as usual. Samoa is a new step in his coaching career, a big commitment after so many years with New Zealand, but he is clear that he has taken on the role in building depth in Samoa Sevens first, and foremost.

That means his time recently has been spent in Apia, where along with stand-in coach for the opening rounds; Stephen Betham, they have assessed the talent pool. A process that might have begun as soon as the day Tietjens was signed by the Samoan Rugby Union.

From October until this week, his focus will have been on talent identification. Always a primary role, even from his time in Bay of Plenty rugby: 1996-2002. This has similarities, in that he canvasses all the talent on the island initially.

Building Depth in Samoa Sevens

Last Word On Rugby (LWOR) asked Sir Gordon if the resources and funding had improved. Tietjens says that Samoa only has about 185,000 people, but there is a lot of natural talent.

The government and rugby union will have worked with new sponsors, to adequately fund the program that Tietjens needs to achieve success.

The boys on the island do it tough, a lot tougher than the boys who can play in New Zealand. Here, it’s all about family.

As well as the locals, Tietjens is keen to look at and secure Samoan players who have moved to NZ. They do this for education, and as they excel in sport, his and the Samoan Union’s ideal is that they be aligned to Samoa.

For those players though, the temptation is once they sign with a provincial union (Mitre 10 Cup/Heartland Championship) more offers come their way.

Link Players from the Island to Those in New Zealand

The risk for smaller nations like Samoa, is that players are scooped up by the bigger unions (like the NZ Sevens). That is professional sport, so a promising player who displays rich talent obviously makes a choice. It is better that Tietjens is in contact with them–hence his time in the country.

Sir Gordon arrived at the Bayleys National Sevens with several objectives. He told LWOR that he was going to speak with current Samoa Sevens players, and to canvas any available Samoan players who were eligible to play for the Islands. Current squad members would get valuable game time over the two days, and for Tietjens and Betham to assess the men.

Holding his camp in Tauranga last week, that group will be bolstered by contracted sevens players. They had a trial last week, and have no injury concerns. Tietjens plans to incorporate a friendly game against Japan next week, before naming his Sevens Series side for the Wellington Sevens on Thursday.

I asked Sir Gordon how many times he had been to Wellington? “this will be my 23rd time there. 22 times with New Zealand, so my first International assignment with Samoa.” By his tone, you could tell that he is excited. After the confusion of a so-called ‘retirement’, Tietjens took on the challenge of Samoa.

Build Some Depth in the Islands

It has reinvigorated him, after stepping down after the Rio 2016 Olympics, he stunned many by signing. But his judgement was to the benefit of Samoa.

It was my ambition to take this team; who failed to reach the Olympics for some reasons, and for me I am a coach who aspires to reach the Commonwealth Games and qualify for the Rugby World Cup Sevens

Tietjens admired that Samoa are a proud nation, and one that wants to go to the Olympics. That’s the goal for Tietjens, and he has a four year plan to make that goal a reality.

He did that by selecting young talent, harnessing skilled players and directing them over tournaments. When asked which teams had impressed him this weekend? “Waikato, of course. I thought when they faced that drawn first half with Harbour, it took real talent to go further.”

He is a world-class coach, and from his and his assistant coaches experience, they know that the ‘little things’ are important. Having his squad in camp, you know he will have built a strong culture among his boys.

Tietjens Direction to Benefit Samoa a Four Year Plan

That is what Sir Gordon Tietjens can bring to Samoa. The basics of course, but the ability to go one step further–missing from the Sevens Series squad [even if they did win in Paris in 2015]. He is a man that wants to glory (again) but he is also grounded to know that it begins at home; in Samoa.

First and foremost it’s about giving guys on the islands opportunity.

When Tietjens assumes the head coaching role when Samoa contest the latest round in the HSBC Sevens Series, he will be on a new quest. One that will bring results, no doubt.

Sevens is one ‘of the hardest disciplines in rugby’ according to SkySport commentator Melodie Robinson, The anaerobic demands are well above XV’s. Players like Sonny Bill Williams had the skill-set, and in the past Tietjens has seen new talent in Tomasi Cama [current NZ Sevens co-coach], Scott Curry, Tim Mikkelson and Dylan Collier. He can surely find the same high-quality men in Samoa.

All he has to do is make them believe in his vision, his four year goal and objectives to building depth in Samoa Sevens.

“Main photo credit”


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