All Blacks World Cup hero Sonny Bill Williams tasted victory again – in his 7s debut at the Wellington leg of the World Rugby 7s Series Tournament.
Taking out three opponents before a no-look-pass to Joe Webber to score the winning try against South Africa (19-24) in Saturday’s group match, Williams went on to lead his team to the final – where he again came from behind to beat the South Africans 24-21.Now the series will be heading to Sydney, Las Vegas, Vancouver and Hong Kong – before its highly anticipated stopover in Singapore in April.
And Singapore fans will certainly be hoping for more spectacular entertainment from Williams – who had helped the All Blacks to lift the trophy in the 15-a-side Rugby World Cup last year.
A massive learning experience for Williams
Said Williams, one of the finest rugby league players and New Zealand’s champion heavyweight boxer, “It was a massive learning experience for myself and I am just grateful to be playing for such a talented side. The boys had to push themselves to their limits to places you don’t really want to go. Sevens is fast and tough on the lungs but I am enjoying it and I know I have many things to work on.”
New Zealand coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, who won the Singapore leg of the World Sevens series in 2002 and 2004 at the old National Stadium, was pleased with Williams’ debut. He said, “I’m really pleased with Sonny. He has never played the 7s game. He’s disappointed in a couple of things that he did, but he can put that behind him and look to the next game. That’s why he’s so good – he’s a perfectionist and he’ll get things right.”
Williams is also hoping to get selected for the Olympic 7s in Rio later this year – when Rugby 7s will make its debut as an Olympic medal sport. His sister Nali also hopes to get picked for the New Zealand Women’s Squad.
Akira Ioane steals the limelightBesides Williams, the Olympic aspirations of 20-year-old Akira Ioane are also looking good.
Named HSBC Player of the Tournament in Wellington, Ioane was unstoppable, regardless of whether it was bumping out of tackles, fending defenders or breaking the line. He also pulled off the try-saver of the tournament when he reeled in South Africa speedster Seabelo Senalta in the finale.
Said Ioane, “It was all about having pride in that jersey and putting mana into it. It was about not giving up.”
Coach is proud of the squad
Coach Tietjens is also proud of his whole squad. He said, “I’ve always said in 7s Rugby that if you got a good bench with good players who can provide impact and players with the X-Factor, you will get a good result. It nearly got away from us, but defence wins tournaments.”
He continued, “We had that big take which was the turning point. Akira is a pretty special player – he has a huge future in the game and has put a huge step forward to being in that 10 for Rio.”
Purchase tickets to catch the HSBC World Rugby 7s in Singapore, on April 16 & 17, at www.singapore7s.sg. Ticket prices range from SGD2 to SGD150, excluding booking fees.