New Zealand HSBC Rugby Sevens player Sonny Bill Williams thinks that Singapore is a sauna.
Explained Williams, 30, “It was pretty hot out there today – it’s like playing in the sauna! But the good thing is that everyone has to play in the same heat. The Pacific Island teams will probably have an advantage because over there, they are used to playing rugby every day. But we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, though.”
Completed their first hard training session in Singapore
An All Blacks 2015 Rugby World Cup hero, Williams had been interviewed today, after having completed a hard training session in Singapore – at the Anglo Chinese School (Independent). He and his All Blacks Sevens team mates had been going through a variety of drills, passing moves and technical plays – to prepare them for this weekend’s HSBC Rugby Sevens tournament.
The All Blacks Sevens is one of the 16 teams currently in Singapore for the HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens which will be taking place this coming Saturday and Sunday.
This training session had followed two easy days where the players had a good time meeting up with their fans and soaking up the sights and sounds of Sentosa, including some surfing at the Wave House.
Having a light training week leading up to the Singapore tournament
Said Williams, “To recover, I have been taking ice baths, massages and lots of stretching. It’s amazing how the body is able to adapt to different situations, just with the load of Sevens. We are playing again next week, and my body is just adapting, but that’s what I guess is happening with all the Sevens boys, it’s tough work…in my religion, we say Subahanallah (Glory be to God).”
Added the All Blacks Sevens Coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens, 60, “Our guys had been really under the pump so we chose to have a light training week – in HongKong we were really challenged, we were down to ten men after Day One and having to share the workload amongst the ten men. The game against South Africa went into extra time and we had been under a lot of pressure. There is a lot of pressure on me to share the workload and every player has got to step up.”
Williams is having a great time in Sevens rugby
Though Williams may have felt the pressure and the challenges, he added that he is having a great time in sevens rugby though. Said the player, “Sevens rugby is very challenging yet very exciting at the same time, to come up against some of the very best players in Sevens.”
He added, “For instance, it was an amazing challenging experience against the Fijians in HongKong, we got them in Sydney but last week they got us. They play differently from other teams on the circuit. Obviously it is their national sport – they have grown up their whole lives playing Sevens, and they just seem to be there when the ball bounces. They have the knack for turning up at the right spots.”
Isaac Te Aute to join the team and Liam Messam to be captain this weekend
And for this weekend’s action, Coach Sir Tietjens is unleashing a new “secret weapon” in the form of youngster Isaac Te Aute. He said, “Isaac is joining the team from school. He just left school recently and he’s got an eye for the game of Sevens. He’s got a nice step, I suppose you can be any type of rugby player, you can be a great rugby player but not necessary you will excel in the Sevens game. This is a boy who excels in Sevens and it’s good to give him a chance to play here in the tournament this weekend.”
He also added that Liam Messam, another talented All Black, will be captain this weekend. He said, “Liam has won two Commonwealth Games gold medals as a Sevens player, he put his hand up many months ago to have a crack at making the team for the Olympics, so Liam has had three to four tournaments to prove that he is good enough.”
Added the coach, “Losing captains like DJ Forbes, Tim Mikkelson and Scott Curry, that’s three skippers who are not with me, so it was a no-brainer to choose Liam. He is a great All Black like Sonny Bill and both of them are having a crack at trying to make it to Rio.”
The above players had all been ruled out of the Singapore Sevens due to injuries and as such, emergency replacements had to be called.
Williams is quite happy with where he is at this stage of the Sevens game
Williams isn’t immediately thinking of the pressures of making it to Rio Olympic squad, though. He said, “I am really enjoying Sevens rugby and really happy with how I have been playing and where i am at this stage. Obviously the end goal is to try and make the Sevens Olympics squad.”
He added, “Right now though, I’ve just got to keep ticking those boxes. HongKong had been pretty tough especially as it was a three-day tournament. But then again that’s what makes Sevens rugby exciting and why I enjoy the game. Sometimes it’s about the mental challenge and not simply the physical one.”
Fitting in with this current All Blacks Sevens team is more important than trying to outshine everyone at this stage too, according to Williams. Added the player, “It’s about fitting in with the team at this stage. There is a lot that goes on outside of this group here, so I do not worry about what is going on there. I just worry about having my team-mates’s respect and my coaches think that i am on the right track. I believe that if i continue to work hard, God willing, stay healthy, injury free, I will be able to get there.”
The Olympics remains as the ultimate goal
To Coach Sir Tietjens though, going to the Olympics and bringing home the gold medal also stays as the ultimate goal. Added the coach, “Sevens is growing globally in a big way, with the sport making its debut in 2016 in Rio and another appearance in 2020 in Tokyo. It’s a great spectator sport, with real professional athletes. For me it is a dream to go to the Olympics. I’ve been to five Commonwealth games and now to the Olympics, it’s the pinnacle of my career and i am really looking forward to it.”In fact, the coach is even headed to Rio to check out the facilities, right after the HSBC World Rugby Sevens tournament is completed. Said Coach Sir Tietjens, “I’m going over to Rio after London Sevens to have a look at the facilities, the conditions that we are going to be playing in.”
Added the Coach, “It will be really important for us to go and check it out. You got to go over there, you got to adapt to living in the Games village and being amongst the other sporting teams from around the world and being together with the best athletes in the world. After all its the peak in world sports.”