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Pressure of last year intense: Tietjens

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/09/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

Sir Gordon Tietjens dished out plenty of pain to his players in nearly a quarter of a century as New Zealand sevens coach.

But it was the 60-year-old feeling the burn over the last year, leading to his retirement.

The end of one of New Zealand's most enduring and decorated sporting reigns was confirmed on Tuesday, marking the end of Tietjens' 23 seasons in charge.

He says it is time for fresh ideas in the wake of his team's shock quarter-final exit at the Rio Olympics.

The man who steered New Zealand to four successive Commonwealth Games gold medals up until 2010, along with victory in 12 of the 17 world series crowns, says his final campaign still stung.

However, he says it wasn't the reason for his exit. He would have gone if they had won a gold medal.

"It's sad in a way but a huge relief," he said.

"My dream was always to go to Rio but it's been a hugely stressful year. There is a bit of stress because of the expectation with any All Black team that goes out on the pitch."

For so long a dominant sevens force, New Zealand's stocks have waned since a run of four successive Commonwealth Games gold medals under Tietjens turned to silver at Delhi in 2014.

They have finished third in the last two world series and the Rio disaster - not helped by a crippling injury toll - included a loss to minnows Japan.

Tietjens says Rio was a reflection of how sevens has transformed since his low-key appointment as coach in 1994. He led New Zealand to victory at their only tournament that year, in Hong Kong.

"We've all seen how competitive it is now," he said.

"The game is ruthless. It comes down to defining moments.

"I gave it everything in Rio and you can't ask for more than that. You've given (the players) the ammunition and they've gone out but they haven't performed. That's sevens rugby and it's going to happen."

Tietjens' role changed as increasing resources were poured into the abbreviated game.

However, he never gave up his self-appointed role as team fitness trainer and nutritionist, earning a reputation as a hard taskmaster.

Not surprisingly, Tietjens rates former All Blacks greats Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen as the best players he worked with. He also lauds the influence of some of his captains, most notably Eric Rush, Karl Te Nana, Liam Messam and DJ Forbes.

Tietjens estimates more than 40 players under his watch have gone on to play Test rugby, something which gave him pride and which he expects will continue.

Winning the Wellington leg of the world series tournament nine times were a highlight but couldn't eclipse the sensation of hearing the national anthem played at the Commonwealth Games, he said.

Tietjens wants to remain involved in sevens rugby but is not sure how.

He is looking forward to a break in his home town of Tauranga.

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