Tasman sevens head coach Sam Gibbens. Photo: Jonty Dine.

‘Samoan Titch’ churning out sevens stars

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Fitness is king for Tasman sevens head coach Sam Gibbens.

The young coach’s philosophy has led his side to a first ever national title with four of his players becoming All Black sevens stars.

Sam’s emphasis on fitness has seen him dubbed the ‘Samoan Titch’ after New Zealand’s most successful sevens coach Gordon Tietjens whose sessions were infamously lung bursting.

“His fitness trainings were death, so I try instill that in my boys. Fitness is king, you can do anything in the game of sevens if you’re really fit.”

Just as Tietjens did for almost two decades, Sam also has an uncanny ability to create sevens stars.

Sam took over the mantle at Tasman four years ago and has since seen four of his squad members progress to national honours.

Tone Ng Shiu, Trael Joass, Andrew Knewstubb and most recently Te Puhoe Stephens were all in Las Vegas at the weekend with the All Black Sevens squad.

Sam says he feels a huge sense of pride seeing his players progress.

“When I read that the boys are heading to the next leg, it gives me goosebumps.”

Sam represented the Samoan sevens side from 1999-2004. playing against stars like Marika Vunibaka, Karl Te-Nana and the greatest of all time, Waisale Servei.

Having played at every tournament on the World Series Circuit, Sam knows how imperative fitness is in the seven a-side game.

“If they can get that right, the game becomes easy.”

The former Marlborough rep says his trainings also help to weed out those not up to the demands of the sport.

“We don’t love doing it to them, but sevens is not a game for everybody.”

Sam has become famous in local rugby circles for his phrase ‘no hands on knees’. Should a player break this rule, another set will be added to punish the whole team.

“It’s always the new ones and they don’t do it again.”

Sam says the popularity of the sport has skyrocketed since his playing retirement.

“It has grown, schools are right into it now and a lot of females are getting into the game.”

He will take a break from club rugby this season to coach his daughters’ side before looking to defend Tasman’s national sevens title at the end of the year.

Sam hopes to progress to coaching a national side and join some of his young stars back onto the world circuit.