NZ chasing Sevens triple at home
Competition leaders New Zealand will be seeking a third straight victory on home soil this weekend in the fourth leg of the IRB Sevens World Series in Wellington.
The All Blacks are on a high after snatching a record-breaking fourth consecutive victory in the South African round of the series last month and coach Gordon Tietjens said they would find an extra gear in front of their home fans.
The normally reticent Tietjens, who has guided New Zealand to 10 titles since the Sevens competition began in 1999, was effusive about the blend of raw talent and experience at his disposal in Wellington.
"Mate, if these guys play to their potential and work hard, I'm looking for a big tournament," he told reporters after naming newcomers Rocky Khan and Gillies Kaka in his squad.
New Zealand top the standings on 60 points, ahead of France (46), Fiji (44), South Africa (41) and Samoa (39).
They face a tough first game against England, with Spain and the USA also in their pool.
The New Zealanders are runaway favourites for the Wellington event but bookmakers, perhaps surprisingly, rank South Africa as next most likely team to emerge victorious this weekend.
The Springboks placed third in the South Africa and Australia legs, with coach Paul Treu saying his charges had to find a way to lift and win crunch games if they wanted to claim the Cup in Wellington.
"Our team has spoken a lot of those small margins for error and if we can manage to keep our focus throughout and keep on creating opportunities, then we will be a threat," he said.
South Africa's pool includes Wales, Canada and Samoa, one of the crowd-favourites in Wellington, which has a large expatriate Pacific island population.
This season's surprise package France, inspired by captain Vincent Deniau, will seek to maintain their momentum in a pool consisting of Argentina, Kenya and Tonga.
Fiji, the last non-local side to win in Wellington in 2010, have a tough pool comprising Australia, Scotland and Portugal.
Pool matches are played on Saturday, with sudden-death games contested Sunday.
Each side plays its three opponents once with pool winners and runners-up advancing to the Cup quarterfinals Sunday, when there will also be Plate, Bowl and Shield silverware up for grabs.