Samoa Aims for Success With Gordon Tietjens
After two decades as the most successful coach in rugby sevens history, Gordon Tietjens could be forgiven for easing his way into retirement, CNN World Rugby show reports. However, the veteran New Zealander is working just as hard as ever – as his new Samoa players are discovering.
“I’ve had 22 years of expectations just lifted off my shoulder overnight, and now those expectations are certainly not as extreme as they were,” the 61-year-old tells CNN. “A big challenge for me is to get the Samoan team to the Olympics in four years’ time.”
Samoans love the game of rugby – and it plays a big part in community life.
“Every time you drive out to the airport, you see 60-70 kids out there, always a rugby ball in the middle,” Tietjens says. “And that’s awesome – I now know what it means for these guys to represent their country.”
Tietjens is now focused on improving Samoa’s standing in the world series and will use next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia as a stepping stone towards Olympic qualification for Tokyo 2020.
Tietjens is affectionately known as “Titch” – and local newspapers dubbed him “Sir Titch” after he was knighted for his services to rugby by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in 2013.
“He pretty much broke everybody,” former All Blacks winger Eric Rush once said of Tietjens’ first session with the team in 1994.
“I’m a real believer in you always stick with what works for you and, of course, still looking for new innovation moving forward,” the coach says now.
“You can’t be a top sevens team or a top sevens player without committing yourself to a lot of hard work. Our game is all about conditioning, and then comes decision-making at crucial times.”
“Our game is ruthless. It comes down to defining moments.”
Tietjens has plenty of defining career moments – he is already a member of rugby’s Hall of Fame, an honor usually reserved for after retirement.
Samoan rugby fans will be hoping he can add another.
Original article by Gary Morley and Alex Thomas, CNN, February 9, 2017.