New Zealand Rugby has blocked newly-appointed Samoa Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens from taking charge of the Pacific Islanders because he is still technically on ‘gardening leave’ from New Zealand Rugby.
Tietjens was officially named as Samoa’s new sevens coach a fortnight ago, telling local media at his first press conference in Apia that he was motivated to make Samoa “a consistent performer” on the world sevens circuit.
However, the 60-year-old will now have to wait until the third stage of the sevens circuit in Wellington before he can officially take charge of the boys in blue after details concerning a confidential agreement between Tietjens and the NZR emerged on Saturday.
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“I have some commitments I need to complete before making the transition to Samoa, but this will be a great opportunity to watch some local rugby,” Tietjens said at his first press conference (via BlitzBokke).
However, when Tietjens was pressed on the issue by the New Zealand Herald he seemed to be a lot more bitter about the situation than he initially led on.
“I am still on contract to New Zealand Rugby and it runs through December, up to January,” said Tietjens.
“I guess you could say I am on gardening leave. I got a letter telling me about my contractual obligations.
“I did find it a bit hurtful, to be told I couldn’t go to Samoa to coach and that I would effectively miss the first two tournaments – I thought maybe 22 years would count for something. There’s an assistant coach in Samoa who will look after things until I can get there.
“I did offer to help with the New Zealand side some time ago – they still don’t have a New Zealand coach appointed yet – but that doesn’t seem to have come to anything; Dubai is only a few weeks away now.”
New Zealand Rugby High Performance Manager Don Tricker added:
“We’ve reached a confidential agreement with Sir Gordon so it’s not really appropriate for us to comment further.”
Tietjens coached the New Zealand Sevens side for 22 years before resigning at the conclusion of the 2016 Olympics in Rio where favourites New Zealand were dumped out of the games by eventual gold medalists Fiji in the quarter-finals.
Former Manu Samoa and Samoa Sevens coach Stephen Betham, who has been named as Tietjens’ deputy, will lead the team through the first two stages in Dubai and Cape Town in Tietjens’ absence.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena
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