Double Delight for New Zealand 7's teams.by Scott Hornell.
Something happened on the Seven world series this week.
It was a rare achievement in Rugby, let alone in many International sports, when both
Men's and Women's representative sides each won their respective World Rugby Sevens series on the same weekend.
Winning in their cup finals, it was "Double Delight for the New Zealand teams"
The sides negotiated their triumph through competitive rounds of action in Wellington [Men] and in Sau Paulo [Women] and you would have to recognise this achievement as being special - and even more so as this series qualifies teams for the Olympic Games in Rio, 2016.
Yes, the sevens is going to the "Big Show' and for these two sides (let alone from the same nation) to win consecutively, it was a big step in the right direction.
2015 is an important year for New Zealands preparations for the Olympics, with qualifying for that tournament as well as the key selection of a core side by November, when Men's and Women's coaches can set their sides focus firmly on the ultimate prize in sport.
By then current players and those who will identify that they wish to be considered for selection, will be given high performance programmes. Fine details will be concluded and the spectre of going to the Olympics will feel that much closer. A 'once in a lifetime' opportunity for some, and each will be asked to represent their country in the inaugural Sevens category in Rio.
And it is at tournaments like the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, that you might usually see multiple victories from our national sides [on a single day] and it has highlighted for many rugby commentators, that the 'big show' is in less than 18 months. That it is only just around the corner, and it makes victories like these even more special.
The focus of course must be on the Rugby World Cup come September/October, but for fans of the sevens, it is an exciting and new challenge.Winning in such a tightly contested series is a challenge in itself, that all top sides aspire to achieve. For the men, they will visit nine cities in their HSBC Sevens World Series, with Wellington being the third round and that saw the All Black Sevens claw back a lead that the South African 'Blitz Boks' had taken (in winning the previous 2 rounds) The only downside, was losing captain DJ Forbes to a foot injury.
Gordon Tietjens men now travel for a quick turnaround to play in the Las Vegas Sevens round this weekend, where the 'colour and fan engagement' levels will reach boiling point. But to match the results of last Saturday night, stand-in captain Scott Curry will need to show leadership and direct this side to perform at that same high standard.
It might be the woman though, who would have been more satisfied, as this is their second victory on their World Rugby Women's Sevens Series that consists of just 5 rounds. That position places them in prime place to repeat last years series win, but captain Sarah Goss and her golden girls will be dead set on continuing their ascendancy in the next round mid-march in Atlanta.
For the women, there are 11 core sides who will contest all rounds, with a 12th invited team (Brazil were invited for rounds one and two) In their 3 pools, the women's game is being developed as well as the men's, and it is this grand 'rugby plan' that World Rugby has in place to develop competitive tournaments, for the sport to be sustainable and enter developing markets like Brazil, Portugal and Asia.
The team from China are one of many Asian nations eager to participate, with Hong Kong seen as the traditional home of Sevens on the Pacific ring, it won't be soon until Malaysia, India and Japan make claims to host this hotly contested series.
And it is that attraction from other host nations where New Zealand may face its toughest competition. That is in regards to its ability to host future successful tournaments. The Wellington 7's event has come under the microscope, with reduced crowds and local media highlighting the weakening support levels and need for change.
Many have questioned whether this tournament will be offered a new lease [it's current agreement ends in 2016] and alternatives and discussion were an often unpleasant distraction for the event. Only for as much as the competing host nations, but for the backlash from those on either side of the argument, with ardent fans like Keith Quinn expelling the benefits of retaining Wellington, while others like Jim Kayes (TV3 Rugby journalist) have suggested it needs to be shifted to Mt Maunganui.
The decision is more likely to have more impact on the organisers, than the players. Their eyes are on a 'shinier' prize, that will be gleaming in their eyes until Rio 2016 is decided. For them, a stadium is where they play, a stage to perform on. For the fans, it is a highlight of their calendars and while the location is only logistical for some, New Zealand rugby fans would be all the poorer, if through our lack of enthusiasm that we may risk losing the ability to see this sport on our doorstep.
We may win the event, might win both series [as we have in years past] and we may in fact be favourites to win Gold in 2016, but from where I'm sitting - for both teams to win on the same weekend, that will go down as a 'golden' highlight of this season (so far)