SPORTS

Legends Make 7s An Olympic Spectacle

One is possibly the greatest sevens rugby union player of all time. And one is possibly the greatest sevens rugby coach of all time. Apart from Ned Haig who invented
10 Sep 2016 09:15
Legends Make 7s An Olympic Spectacle
Former Fijian rugby player and rugby 7's legend Waisale Serevi returns home as special guest speaker during the University of the South Pacific Rugby Seminar yesterday.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau.

One is possibly the greatest sevens rugby union player of all time.

And one is possibly the greatest sevens rugby coach of all time.

Apart from Ned Haig who invented rugby’s short version in 1883 from a butcher shop in Melrose, Scotland, it’s hard to compare people who have played an influential role and have done so much for the game than Fiji’s maestro Waisale Serevi and outgoing New Zealand sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.

They maybe others deserving the honourable mention like our very own Ratu Kitione Tuibua who was the first coach to score three wins in-a-row in Hong Kong. But Serevi and Sir Gordon stood tall together, a class apart from the rest.

They lifted, created, added new inventions to a game which started as local fundraiser for the Melrose Rugby Football Club to be an Olympic sport 133 years later in Rio last month.

Sir Gordon will always be remembered for those who went through the ‘school of hard knocks’ at Blake Park, Mt Manganui, Auckland.

Turning boys into men in cracking the whip during training, Sir Gordon has that speciality of bringing out that element of hardness in players to conquer the obstacles.

And his achievements after 22 years will be difficult to surpass.

Sir Gordon retires early this week since taking on the coaching role in 1994.

 

He has won

-won four Commonwealth Games titles,

-two Rugby Sevens World Cup  (2001 in Argentina and 2013 in Russia);

-12 of the 17 World Sevens Series crowns.

 

The veteran coach has also nurtured more than 40 All Blacks including Christian Cullen, Eric Rush, Jonah Lomu, Julian Savea, Liam Messam, Mils Muliaina, Rodney So’oialo and Victor Vito.

Early this week he vividly recalled how he won his first HK 7s in 1994 and Rugby Sevens World Cup (2001)

“The first Hong Kong tournament as an All Blacks Sevens coach was really quite special and one I’ll never forget,” Tietjens said.

“To go on and win that for the next two years, three in a row, was a dream start.”

Serevi also made his debut as captain in 1994 and it took three years to beat Tietjens’men after winning the RSWC (Melrose Cup) in 1997.

The rivalries between New Zealand and Fiji in the annual HK7s tournament, incepted in 1976, elevated the profile of the event to become the first genuinely global gathering of the rugby nations.

The impact of the HK7s convinced World Rugby that the sport wasn’t just about the Home nations and France since it was fast becoming a global game.

It’s fair to say that the HK7s make the Rugby World Cup.

Because 17 years after the first HK7s, World Rugby held the first Rugby Sevens World Cup in Scotland in 1993 and 11 years later the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 1987.

After intense lobbying by rugby legends Serevi, Tietjens,  Jonah Lomu, Agustin Pichot, Lawrence Dallaglio, Laurie Mains, David Campese etc, World Rugby finally convinced the International Olympic Committee in 2009 in Singapore and rugby sevens was voted as an Olympics sport.

While we celebrate our 7s success in Rio, we should be grateful for those who stood tall for decades to make the sport what is now today.

From a butcher’s shop in Scotland to So Kon Po in Hong Kong, to the 10 destinations in the World Sevens Series from Dubai to London, to the Deodoro Stadium in Rio, rugby sevens will be serving up many sporting feasts for decades to come.

We can only look back and thank those who have toiled over the years as they gave everything. 54th out of 205 Olympic nations after winning our first gold medal in Rio last month was a rare feat.

We applaud those who contributed to the success of the sport many described as spectacle to watch and ‘played in heaven.’

Feedback:  oseab@fijisun.com.fj

 

 



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