Tutor benefits from rugby sevens fever

News News & events

14 Feb 2013

Just back from a trip to Queenstown for the Rugby Sevens national tournament, CPIT Certificate of Sports Training and Indigenous Culture (TOA Sports) tutor Jason Tiatia talks about exciting developments for rugby sevens and his enduring love of rugby’s poorer, faster cousin.

The schedule for a rugby sevens player at the Queenstown tournament is hectic - three games in one day. Each game is only 14 minutes long, but the pace on field is electric as the players tackle, chase and score try’s with half the players of a traditional rugby team. As Canterbury’s Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jason Tiatia works hard too, warming up the players physically and mentally, leading recovery sessions, watching what the players eat between games and occasionally doing his ‘sergeant major’ routine to keep the boys in line.

Experience is key

He has been there before, as a young player himself. Having played for the Canterbury Sevens and the New Zealand Sevens from 1999 to 2004, then for Grenoble (France) and Parma (Italy) between 2004 and 2008 Jason knows what it takes to bring your best performance to the field.

“In those days there was a lot of pressure on foreigners. They expected a lot, when they love you they love you, but if we lost it was ‘why didn’t you win the game for us?’ Some of the training was too long and the quality wasn’t very high, but they were very adamant in their ways,” he said.

Now he’s a coach at an exciting time for the Sevens. The code has proven itself a good training ground for the All Blacks, which Jason credits to Sevens pioneer coach Gordon Tietjens – legendary players who have blazed the path include Jonah Lomu, Eric Rush and Orene Ai’i.

The Sri Lankan experience

Internationally the pace of rugby sevens awareness recently got a major boost when the International Olympic Committee adopted it – the sport makes its debut at the 2016 Olympics.

“Amsterdam, Dubai, Russia – all these places are playing sevens now. China has invested millions,” Jason said. And they all want kiwi players and coaches to help build their fledgling teams.

Last year Jason was invited to Sri Lanka as one of the best 40 trainers in the world for a development tournament that placed local players with 40 of the best international players. It was an “eye opener” Jason says. “I thought Europe was behind, but this was another story.”

In Sri Lanka, Millionaires run the teams, each of which had to bid for players. “We got some good players, including four New Zealanders. The game plan was to get the Sri Lankan players involved, upskill them and give them some confidence. We lost the first game. So we thought we better change our game plan. We said ‘let’s just win it for the Sri Lankan players’. There was some pressure from sponsors to succeed and in the end we won the tournament and one of our Sri Lankan players got Player of the Tournament.

“These days everyone is getting smarter; there’s more access to resources. A lot of countries are investing in coaches and players. It’s good they want new Zealanders but then we are giving our secrets away!”

Sevens team

The Canterbury rugby sevens team in Queenstown.

Rugby in Brazil

Darryn Collins, a recent graduate of CPIT’s Applied Science Sports and Exercise Science specialisation, recently took up a position as Strength and Conditioning coach for the Brazilian team. There has also been an explosion in the quality of the New Zealand women’s game, which opens more avenues for specialists to share their expertise. “As a sevens specialist you can travel around the world. For me, I get to travel, stay in touch with the game, network with other coaches and it’s very exciting seeing the young players come up.

Bringing it all home

“At CPIT I can apply what I’ve learnt in Sri Lanka and Queenstown in the classroom, so there are innovative ways you can teach the students how to get fit. Some of the young students think they are fit but they get a shock when they take the sevens fitness test.” As always, “hard work, ethics and attitude are so important”. CPIT’s Certificate of Sports Training and Indigenous Culture (TOA Sports) develops physical, health and mental conditioning while gaining an understanding of Māori and Pasifika language and cultures.