Sonny Bill Williams maintains he’s happy to have made the transition to Sevens rugby, with New Zealand winning through to the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong tournament in less than convincing style.
The Kiwis finished top of Pool A on Saturday – winning three from three pool matches over Samoa, France and Kenya – but it wasn’t as smooth sailing as normal.
The Gordon Tietjens-coached team comfortably overcame Samoa 28-10 but lacked conviction in beating France 19-17 with a late Tim Mikkelson five-pointer and they pipped Kenya 5-0 thanks to a try to veteran DJ Forbes with two minutes remaining.
It all meant the All Blacks Sevens – perennial powerhouses on the World Sevens circuit and sitting third on the standings – will face Wales, runners-up to Fiji in Pool D, in Sunday’s last eight.
However, the Kiwis will have to do it without captain Mikkelson, who was ruled out of the tournament with an ankle sprain before their win over Kenya.
Williams, a two-time World Cup-winning All Blacks centre who won’t turn out for the red-hot Chiefs in Super Rugby this year, scored the last of four tries against Samoa.
He was happy with his progress as he worked towards locking in a spot in NZ’s squad for the Rio Olympics.
“There’s no higher honour than to be an Olympian, so I know I had to put my hat in the ring for the whole year,” said Williams in front of a partying Hong Kong crowd who were revved up by entertainment from David Hasselhoff and Scottish band The Proclaimers.
“I had to play the game as much as I could just to learn the game. I’m definitely happy with my decision. But I’m a long way from making the Olympic squad.
“From a team point of view … we really have to dig deep so tomorrow is going to be a really testing day. We’re going to have to keep it simple and work hard for each other.”
In the other quarter-finals, Australia face England, the United States take on South Africa and Fiji battle Kenya.