All Blacks Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens has named the team to play the next two tournaments of the HSBC Sevens World Series; Dubai Sevens (5-6 December) and South Africa Sevens (13-14 December).
It features two new caps in Murphy Taramai and Sam Vaka.
Tiejjens said he was very excited to have two impressive young players making their debut in Dubai. Wellington loose forward Murphy Taramai (aged 22) came to Tietjen’s attention during a recent Sydney sevens tournament while Counties Manukau centre Sam Vaka (22) also grasped his opportunity this week.
“They are both very enthusiastic young men who have really grown as sevens players in the last few weeks. They certainly stepped up when it mattered today," said Tietjens.
“They are both very skilful and understand the game really well for two players who are still young.
“Murphy is just very abrasive in contact areas. He’s a great passer of the ball as well. The advantage he brings is as a ball carrier – he is very strong, breaks tackles and he’s just got an instinct for the try line.
“Sam Vaka has also worked hard this week. He is very quick, has a lovely step and is very physical. He’s someone who just has an x factor and can score from 50 or 60 metres out because of his pace.”
New Zealand will be represented in Dubai by a rare brother and sister combination with Waikato wing Joe Webber joining his sister Jordan in the New Zealand teams.
Highlanders back Kurt Baker returns to the team for the first time since the World Cup in Moscow last year. Tietjens acknowledged the support of the Highlanders in freeing him up to play the Dubai and South Africa tournaments.
“He’s a very good sevens player," said Tietjens. "He’s very fit and understands the game very well. He certainly deserves his spot and was probably the player of the trial.”
In Dubai the All Blacks Sevens are up against Scotland in their first pool game, followed by Japan and Samoa. The team currently sits fifth in the World Series after the first tournament in October on the Gold Coast.
“Gold Coast was disappointing and we haven’t done particularly well in Dubai over the last couple of years. But I have a good feeling after naming the side. The hunger I saw out there today was really noticeable and if we can start off in that first game and gather a lot of confidence we will have a good one.”
The team departs for Dubai on Sunday evening.
New Zealand 7s squad for Dubai and South Africa 7s
- Kurt Baker
- Scott Curry
- Ambrose Curtis
- Sam Dickson
- DJ Forbes (c)
- Gillies Kaka
- Tim Mikkelson
- Declan O'Donnell
- Sherwin Stowers
- Murphy Taramai*
- Joe Webber
- Sam Vaka*