Under fire NZ out to defend SA crown
Story and Photo: www.irbsevens.com
New Zealand captain DJ Forbes believes this weekend's Nelson Mandela Bay South Africa Sevens is the perfect opportunity to get the reigning Series champions' campaign back on track.
The 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series champions currently sit joint third in the standings and despite reaching the Cup final in the opening round in Australia, they lost three successive matches for the first time in Dubai and collected just 10 Series points.
"Last week was pretty disappointing," said Forbes. "I guess it is hard because we have been the benchmark for so long.
"So if the world sees us slip up a bit, they will all of sudden jump on and say we have lost our edge, but we are coming out to make sure people haven't forgotten we are setting the benchmark and hopefully on day one in South Africa we can really fly into those matches and let people know we are still right up there."
Gordon Tietjens' side currently have 29 points with France and South Africa, 10 behind leaders Fiji and three behind England who are second.
But with a third back-to-back tournament for the teams to contend with for the first time, the 2010 South Africa Sevens champions could still end 2011 on a high with their home leg in Wellington next on the Series in 2012.
"Gordon Tietjens has always been big on starting the season well," added Forbes.
"Last year we were in a similar situation, but this year with three tournaments we have a good opportunity to put our best foot forward.
"We are still third, still in the mix, and we have a good chance to go home with some silverware too. But for us it is about getting as many points as we can in the standings.
"To make a Cup final, and quarter-final and to still be in the mix is pleasing, but this is going to be crucial for us to make sure we can go into our home tournament with some points in the bag."
Home from home
In 2010 Tomasi Cama's penalty in sudden death extra time ensured New Zealand won the final 22-19 against England in George, and after the final New Zealand's captain called South Africa a 'second home'.
Despite being in a new city and at a new stadium, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Forbes believes the support could give his side a lift for the tournament on 9-10 December.
"We come into this weekend as defending champions, but it is never easy, and just as every team we are looking to win a tournament," admitted Forbes.
"We always have support here though, people always coming up to me wishing us all the best.
"I have had Facebook messages too and people from George have said they are making the trip up, so it is a home away from home.
"But we still need to do our bit on the field, and as much as the crowd get in behind us, there is still a lot of work to do. Hopefully we can use that energy to take it to another level and put on a good performance for our support here."
New Zealand face pool matches against Morocco, Scotland and Dubai Sevens runners-up France on day one.