Manu Samoa Sevens coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens, has experienced for the first time the methods by New Zealand to deny players from representing Samoa.
Ahead of the Wellington Sevens this week, Tietjens said the financial gains are often used to prevent players from donning the blue jersey and this will always be a struggle for Samoan rugby.
“I’ve only got a real understanding now of how hard it is to get any Samoan-NZ based player to come play for Samoa,” he said.
“I talked to one particular player with real interest who was playing at the Rotorua Sevens, he was really keen but all of a sudden New Zealand identified I was talking to him and they went off and did a contract with him.
“He wanted to play for Samoa but the financial gains from the contract made him opt otherwise. That’s why I feel that building depth in the island is better for Samoa.”
Tietjens made the comments after he named his first squad, having taken over the squad since January.
The team has been camping in New Zealand.
“The real reason why they are in NZ at the moment is to get an understanding of what high performance is,” he said.
And the results are promising.
“If I look at the data now, they are fitter than they have ever been. The average fitness of the players we have now is outstanding compared to what it was,” he said.
“We still got a way to go but the improvement of some of the players are recording personal best which is really pleasing. The challenge for those players and also the players that have not made the squad, is that when they return to Samoa, they have to keep training hard.
“I’ve seen a difference in their skill levels and decision making. It’s getting better and better, it’ll take time but we need to produce consistent performances and I think with the shifts in nutrition and conditioning we will certainly see results.”
About the team’s fitness ahead of this weekend’s tournament, Tietjens said: “There has been an improved fitness rating of 6.5-7/10 compared to the first two legs where he rated the fitness level at around 4.5 -5/10.”
Tietjens said he is trying to promote as many players as he can particularly those on the island.
“I want to see them succeed. If they train the house down and make these shifts and these changes then I can certainly see some real benefits of growing depth in Samoan rugby.”
Tietjens also gave an update about why some of the players weren’t selected including Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa, Afa Aiono, Ed Fidow and others.
Update on the players:
Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa: Ruled out due to injury for the Wellington and Sydney leg.
Afa Aiono: Afa Aiono is coming back from a serious knee injury and he is not quite ready. He’ll be ready for Vegas and Vancouver. He’s been training really well but not up to the levels of conditioning that he needs to be, so he is not quite ready but he’ll be ready when it comes around for those next two tournaments. I rate Afa Aiono very highly and probably our most experienced player and as hard as it was, I don’t think he’s ready and I discussed this with Afa on what he needs to work on but he will certainly be involved in the next tournament which will be in Las Vegas.
Ed Fidow: A loss of form and possibly not playing well enough at the moment. I’ve talk to Ed on what he needs to work on. Other players that slipped ahead of him are Joe Perez and Samoa Toloa who is probably playing the best rugby of his life at the moment. Ed did suffer a minor concussion during the trial game against Japan.
Eddy Slater: He is not quite there yet but a lot of potential.
Gordon Langkilde: He is still in its first year learning the game and still getting a real understanding but a lot of potential.
Lester Sefo: Lester is another player new to sevens, he’s trained really really hard and again probably one of the unlucky ones not to make the final camp.