Sevens: Tournament farewelled with pride

Clark Frew
Clark Frew
Saving the best till last - that was the feeling of the Queenstown hosts of the national sevens at the weekend.

Otago said farewell to a tournament it had hosted for 10 years and Sevens with Altitude chairman Clark Frew declared the final event the best he had seen in that decade.

Saturday pulled in the largest opening-day crowd - 6000 - in the history of the tournament. This, added to the combination of good weather, good behaviour, good rugby and the addition of women's teams, made it the ''best ever'', he said.

''Every year is just slightly different. The highlight for me is how the game has morphed and grown over the years.''

Frew said he had witnessed the standard of the seven-man game increase over the years and noticed another improvement this time.

He attributed that to a bigger emphasis on the future of the sport by the provinces and the New Zealand Rugby Union, with sevens now an Olympic discipline.

''There has been a lot more focus on sevens over the past few years,'' Frew said.

''When we began, the game was almost a preseason gig to get fit for 15s. Now it's a sport in its own right.''

Lowlights of the past nine years for Frew?''None, really. We have had very positive feedback. Everyone's enjoyed what we have done over the last 10 years.''

Frew said he and the Altitude team would offer any assistance to the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, which hosts the tournament in Rotorua next year. He had already been in contact with the Bay's chief executive.

Although the contract in Rotorua is likely to last four years, Frew hopes the tournament will come back to Queenstown one day.

''We certainly hope so, but whether that happens is still up in the air.''

Keeping a close eye on the action at the weekend, as usual, was New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens.

He commended Queenstown organisers for their efforts over the past 10 years and said he had enjoyed the atmosphere and enthusiastic crowds.

''I have enjoyed the time in Queenstown. It's a great place with great weather.

''Otago always play well here. They play well as a team and that crowd certainly gets behind them, which lifts the players.''

Tietjens said the standard of sevens in the South Island had lifted and he hoped that would continue, even when the tournament moved north.