The Greatest Ever Rugby Sevens Coach Has Called It Quits

Denied an Olympic medal, Sir Gordon Tietjens calls time on two decades coaching Kiwi rugby sevens

by VICE Sports
Sep 6 2016, 1:45pm

Photo credit: YouTube.

The greatest rugby sevens coach of all time has decided he's had enough

Sir Gordon Tietjens, the New Zealand men's rugby sevens coach for the last 22 years, stood down today.

Few would argue it: Sir Gordon created modern rugby sevens, taking the speed and physicality of the game in the mid-90s and turning it into the polished, highly entertaining Olympic sub-sport it is. The 60-year-old's training camps were legendarily hard, but he helped refine the skills of some of rugby's biggest stars over the years.

Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Joe Rokocoko, Rico Gear, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Eric Rush and Glen Osbourne were amongst the 44 sevens players who served under 'Titch' who eventually became All Blacks.

Over his career, Sir Gordon took the New Zealand sevens team to four Commonwealth Games gold medals, and twelve HSBC series titles since he began as coach in 1994.

He also guided New Zealand to Sevens World Cup victories in 2001 and 2013.

Cruelly though, it was at the highest peak sevens rugby had ever climbed that he failed, as New Zealand bombed spectacularly at the recent Olympics.

The Rio Games feature Olympic rugby sevens for the first time ever, but the Kiwi men limped through their pool and were beaten by eventual champions Fiji in the quarter-finals. The New Zealand women's team won silver.

They'd lose, and Sir Gordon would be denied on leaving his job on a high.

"I felt this year, with the injuries, the expectation, we still qualified and came third in the World Series. I just felt the turnarounds and the pressure that created... going through all that preparation to go to the Olympics took its toll in the end," Sir Gordon told media today.

"It confirmed in my own mind, at that time, that it was time at the end of the Olympics, win or lose."

All the same: he will certainly be remembered for his two decades of service for Kiwi rugby.

"To put the length of his career into context, when he first began in this role rugby was an amateur game, Jim Bolger was Prime Minister and several members of the current All Blacks Sevens team hadn't even been born," New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said.

"The number of former sevens players who've gone on to become All Blacks speaks for itself and demonstrates the incredible impact that Titch has had on our game

"New Zealand Rugby and our country owe him a debt of gratitude for the legacy he's left behind and all the memories and careers he's shaped along the way."