Long serving All Blacks Sevens captain DJ Forbes is stepping aside from the captaincy of the team he has been a key part of since 2006. The veteran sevens specialist said he came to his decision after much reflection and discussions with coach Gordon Tietjens. His decision aimed to ensure he was in the best possible shape to help his chances of being selected for the New Zealand Sevens team that will compete at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Forbes says: ‘I’ve had an awesome run with this team and this is just a change of guard. My key focus is on getting my body to 100 per cent and by stepping aside from the responsibilities of captain I can focus solely on what I need to do to get in the best shape mentally and physically. Titch and I agree this is the best way to get me to the Olympics. This also means I will be in a position to help grow another captain while I’m still involved and more importantly to put the team in good shape for the Olympics and beyond. My body doesn’t bounce back quite like it used to and as an athlete I would never compromise anything and this way I know if I make the Olympics, it will be on merit and not by default.’
Forbes is one of the most successful players to ever pull on the sevens black jersey having made his debut for the team in 2006. He says: ‘I always hoped that God would allow my body to play for this team for 10 years and this season will mark that. There’s a big carrot at the end of it so I want to give it my best shot. I’ve been captain pretty much since making the team so this move might allow me a bit of freedom to really enjoy what will probably be my last year of international sevens and to go out and play as one of the boys. I never played rugby to be the captain but the privilege of leading this team has been a huge honour. Not having (c) after my name isn’t the end of the world because I’m still living the dream, doing what I love.’
Coach Gordon Tietjens said he would name a successor to Forbes shortly when the initial squad for the 2015/16 season was named later this month: ‘I complement DJ on the big decision he has made and wanting to solely focus on getting to the Olympics. He wants to overcome his injuries and doesn’t want the pressure of captaincy and I respect that. It’s going to be very competitive to win selection and he knows that. We both feel this decision will allow him the space to focus on overcoming his injuries and getting in the right shape. This will give him the best opportunity to make the team. He has been wonderful captain and we will still rely on his experience and leadership skills to help the new captain. He still has much to offer the team. DJ always led by the way he played; he is an inspirational figure and very much the face of sevens and the team. Our successes over the years owe much to his skills as a player and leader.’