Fri, Mar 27, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Cricket win gives NZ boost for Hong Kong Sevens

AFP, HONG KONG

Defending champions New Zealand go into the Hong Kong Sevens today with an extra spring in their step after the Black Caps’ stunning victory in the cricket World Cup semi-finals.

Veteran New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens said their compatriots’ dramatic win over South Africa on Tuesday would spur on the rugby side in the fierce competition for a berth at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year.

The top four teams at the end of the current Sevens World Series will secure a place in Brazil, where rugby sevens is making its Olympic debut.

“We all watched it on the big screen... It’s a huge motivation,” said Tietjens of the cricket semi-final, which saw New Zealand steal victory by hitting a six off the penultimate ball in Auckland. “New Zealand sport at the moment is on a real high.”

However, he added that the cricket World Cup final on Sunday would not distract the sevens team, who are hoping to lift the Hong Kong tournament trophy that day.

“When it comes to Sunday and we are hopefully in the quarters and looking to play finals rugby, there will be no distractions whatsoever,” he said.

Hong Kong is the sixth tournament of nine in the series — South Africa are currently top of the leaderboard ahead of New Zealand and Fiji.

The territory’s three-day meet is one of the highlights of the series, with the famous South Stand packed with raucous fans in fancy dress and disco legends Village People due to perform tomorrow.

World Rugby chief Brett Gosper described the tournament as “the Wimbledon of rugby sevens.”

Though they lead the series, South Africa have never won in Hong Kong and have brought a psychologist with them to break their run.

“We’ve won every other tournament out there... We need to be in the right space of mind to be successful,” coach Neil Powell said.

They face Argentina in their first group match today, while New Zealand take on Scotland and Fiji meet Samoa.

The home side will compete in the qualifier tournament, which runs alongside the main event, to become one of the top-ranked “core” teams next season.

Hong Kong also hosts the Asian qualifiers for Olympics sevens in November and coach Gareth Baber believes the team can make it to Rio.

“We finished top of the tree in the Asian series and we narrowly missed out on an Asian Games gold medal to Japan,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, but we’re in a good position.”

Hong Kong take on Brazil in their first match today.

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