NZ Sevens coach future is pending
NEWS: New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens will only make a final decision on his coaching future after the post-Olympics review.
Tietjens, whose contract is up, said his immediate focus was to work with NZ Rugby and the New Zealand Olympic Committee in completing a post-tournament analysis of the failed Rio campaign.
New Zealand failed to medal, losing 7-12 to Fiji in their quarterfinal. Earlier losses to Japan and Great Britain in pool play meant the New Zealand won just one of their four games.
In reference to his future with the team Tietjens said: "I am certainly not going to be making any comment around that as we speak.
"But I have been involved in sevens rugby for 22 years. Like everyone else I am really disappointed in the result.
"My team gave it everything and so did the management team. When you reflect back, would you have done things differently? That will be tabled in the review and hopefully leads to a more successful campaign when it comes to the Olympics in 2020,"
If the review process is rigorous there will no shortage of material to sift through.
In addition to not having access to a number of high-profile All Blacks, who for varying reasons opted not to commit to the Olympics, Tietjens felt his team wasn't helped by NZ Rugby not committing to the centralised programmes that have proved successful for other countries.
Selections were also debated in the sevens fraternity and when Kurt Baker was omitted from the Olympic squad he said he felt "used" by Tietjens.
Although it was clear a number of other countries had closed the gap on New Zealand, and the fact they finished third behind Fiji and South Africa in this year's world sevens series was a testament that they faced a real battle in Rio, there was optimism they could claim a medal.
The shock loss to Japan in the opening round provided a nasty reality check and after losing their final pool match to Great Britain they were fortunate to scrape into the quarterfinal where they played their best game against eventual gold medalists Fiji.
Farewelling Sonny Bill Williams (ruptured Achilles tendon) and Joe Webber (shoulder injury) during the loss to Japan was a major blow and created a "massive" change in the team's dynamics, said Tietjens.
"I have sat back and reflected in a huge way on what worked and didn't work. Upon reflection, there are certainly lots of areas you can look at.
"When we lined-up for that first game against Japan, we were mentally and physically there. And then of course in that particular game I lose two of my most influential players out of the tournament in Joe Webber and Sonny Bill Williams," he added.
Losing captain Scott Curry with a leg injury ahead of the sudden-death match against Fiji was also a blow.
"[Curry and Weber] were influential in terms of how we wanted to play the game. It does play its part. I would never go to the media and say we lost because of injuries because I certainly felt in the game against Fiji we proved we could compete against the best,"
The topic of whether having more access to the top All Blacks would have improved the side has been hotly debated following the team's exit.
However, Tietjens noted Australia and South Africa elected not to select Quade Cooper and Bryan Habana because they didn't have the conditioning or background in the abbreviated game.
There was no guarantee All Blacks such as Kieran Read, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett or Ardie Savea could have improved the sevens' team's medal chances, but their exposure to high-pressure games may have been beneficial.
"The Olympics is all about pressure and expectation. I had a lot of young players in my side and hence that pressure was, in some ways, too much," Tietjens noted.
"Perhaps at crucial times we lacked that experience. You may get that through international players, you may get it through All Blacks or Super Rugby players because they are always playing on the big stage."
Tietjens also believes Williams could play sevens again - although he will spend the next nine months recovering from his injury.
"You could see the improvement all the time. He was loving it and he was looking so forward to going back to the All Blacks when he was so fit and rejuvenated. Of course that injury was quite shattering and I felt so disappointed for him.
"He said he would love to play sevens again and I have no doubt he will."