The challenge for South Africa's sevens coach Paul Treu is to end New Zealand's World Series domination.
Treu will not stop until he has toppled the Kiwis
DUBAI // You could be forgiven for thinking the South Africa sevens coach Paul Treu is not overly bothered about the impending start of the new IRB World Series. As he saunters casually around the Nezesaussi sports bar in Dubai, signing autographs for young supporters dressed in Springbok shirts, he is a picture of relaxation.
The appearance is somewhat deceptive. "I can tell you, there is no other drive bigger than this for me," he said of his side's prospects of finally toppling the all conquering New Zealanders and winning the series this time. "I am obsessed, you can definitely call it that. I am not going to stop until we win." Obsession seems to be a key character trait of successful sevens coaches. It also fits Gordon Tietjens, the New Zealand sevens coach and Treu's nemesis, and his relentless pursuit of perfection.
He would have managed it last year, too, if it was not for the pesky South Africans. When Treu's side stopped the Kiwis in the final of the Adelaide Sevens, it brought to an end a 47-match winning run and ruined their dream of going through a whole season undefeated. Tietjens was left unsatisfied - but one tournament win per season is hardly likely to appease Treu either. The approaches of the two most experienced coaches in sevens differ markedly.
Treu takes a "holistic" view of how he should be developing the sevens game in his homeland. He understands the importance of pressing the flesh in order to please sponsors. Tietjens, on the other hand, claims children are often too scared to ask for his autograph, such is his fearsome demeanour. Halting this New Zealand side, one of the most dominant in all of sport, as they try to win a ninth world series from 10 attempts, may seem like mission impossible.
But Treu is not cowed by the challenge. "I said it to the players that they have to realise that this is something I am going to take, and I am looking for people to come with me. "I need people who are going to jump on the bus and we are going to drive as fast as we can." South Africa managed their best series ranking last year, as they finished second to New Zealand, but they were still a full 48 points behind.
Treu insists his side can close the gap this term, starting with this weekend's Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, which they claimed two years ago with a win over the Kiwis in the final. "For New Zealand to be toppled, it starts with the belief," he said. "You get nowhere if you don't believe in yourself, or your team, or your goals. "I always tell the players that sevens is a lifestyle. "It is not something you can just pitch up and play. It becomes your life.
"What is it going to take for anyone to stop you from achieving your goals? "If the players keep chasing their goals every single day, then it is achievable. "New Zealand beat teams because they are physical, and because they have created a sense of invincibility. That needs to be broken down. "We have beaten them in finals in the past, other teams have also beaten them a few times in the past. "We do have the ability to do it, and we do have the potential to become the first team other than New Zealand or a Pacific nation to win the series.
"We are working towards it and I think we may achieve it sooner rather than later." firstname.lastname@example.org