Sevens: Nationals to move to Rotorua

Clark Frew
Clark Frew
Queenstown's loss is Rotorua's gain as the national sevens tournament moves to the North Island.

The New Zealand Rugby Union announced yesterday the national sevens competition will shift to Rotorua in 2014 and 2015 after being held in Queenstown for the last decade.

It is a tough blow for Queenstown and its organisers after it revived the event in 2003 and held it for a decade, drawing crowds of more than 10,000 over the weekend.

It will host its final event on January 12-13 next year.

The NZRU wishes to ''upscale'' the event and, with sevens in the Olympics in 2016, it wants to take the tournament to the next level.

Sevens with Altitude chairman Clark Frew remained upbeat yesterday, and said the Queenstown tournament and its organisers had been victims of their own success.

Frew said he was proud of the ''fantastic effort'' the Sevens with Altitude committee had given over the past 10 years.

''No-one could have ever foreseen 10 years ago that the sevens game was going to become so large and no-one would have ever foreseen it was going to become an Olympic sport with two gold medals up for grabs,'' he said.

''The goalposts have moved since we started.''

Frew said Bay of Plenty had the ability to host a sevens ''festival'', with several tournaments running alongside the main event.

It also had a purpose-built ITM Cup ground, and it would be cheaper for the bulk of the teams to travel to Rotorua.

''At the end of the day, we've done a fantastic job. New Zealand rugby was totally within its rights to put it up for tender. There can't be petty politics about who stole whose event.''

He said the decision was tough to take but it made sure the tournament next month would go out with a bang.

''It is going to be a great tournament. We've got six [women's] teams coming and we're having the prizegiving dinner up the Skyline, which will be a real treat for all of the participants.

''Now we know this is the last one, we'll have to see [what we can do]. It's going to be a special event, but it would have been anyway.''

The NZRU called for tenders earlier this year and Bay of Plenty won the process, with the tournament to be hosted at its international stadium.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the union needed greater capacity to cater for future expansion of the tournament both in terms of grounds and spectator facilities and Bay of Plenty provided a compelling package in that regard.