Nearly 5000 people converged on Queenstown Recreation
Ground for the New Zealand Rugby Sevens tournament in 2010.
Photo by Naeem Alvi.
While some still struggle with New Zealand Rugby's
announcement in December that Rotorua has gained New Zealand
Sevens hosting rights for 2014 and 2015, Otago Rugby Sevens
coach Roy Hawker says the seven-man game is on its way up at an
The tournament has been an annual fixture on Queenstown's
calendar since 2003, but Hawker says the shift of the
tournament is for the good of the game as more resources are
being pulled in to improve the status and player base of
''The most pleasing thing is there's some resources going
into it and with the game going to the Olympics, it is
gaining more respect.''
He compared the sevens situation now to that of cricket when
twenty/20 was first introduced and hopes it will see the same
increase in popularity and crowd numbers cricket has.
''Rugby as a 15-man game can be quite complex in its purest
form and quite difficult for outsiders to understand.
''Sevens is a game that brings a crowd and people can come
along and enjoy that.''
He said the introduction of women's games to this year's
tournament would also boost the game as a spectator sport,
but was disappointed for the Otago women's side after it
bowed out of the qualifying tournament in the semifinals.
''I think it's going to add to the flavour of the weekend.
It's added a whole new dimension and it is great for the
While Hawker and the Otago team would be sentimental knowing
this would be Otago's last home tournament for some time, he
said this would also provide the team with some extra
motivation to win in front of what is traditionally a loud
and excitable crowd.
''We drive three hours over here to what is technically our
home grounds and then when you walk out and see all that blue
and gold on the bank ... they're a great crowd.''
''We will want to give that home crowd lots to cheer for.''
Hawker said the introduction of sevens to the 2016 Olympics
would do wonders for the game internationally but also, at a
home level, players would be more inclined to stick with the
game rather than using it as a link to the next level.
''A lot of young sports people dream of appearing at an
Olympics. As rugby players we have never had that dream.''
Sevens was a pathway for players to gain recognition and get
to that next level, he said.
While this was still the case, he said Otago Rugby had been
lucky to have talented players train throughout the summer
and partake in the tournament this weekend out of ''pure
enthusiasm'' to play rugby.
He said the likes of Otago captain Paul Grant should be
training with the Highlanders, but were fronting up at
Hawker is confident in his young side, although
only 50% of them are returning from last year's squad.
''Our expectations are to hold on to the ball as much as we
can. One main objective is to qualify for day two and get on
top of the draw.''
The team was likely to be physical and although it could not
match defending champion Auckland's flair, players would show
their on field presence through physical contact.
He said after Otago Rugby's financial woes of 2012 it is
standing in a good place and the fact the money has not been
ready available had
helped bring local talent to the fore.
''It is a big turnaround to the way we've been dealing with
it in the past, as before we would get guys down from
provinces in the North Island and be passing these guys by.''
''These guys have always existed.''