Allan Bunting has gold on his mind. An Olympic gold medal to be precise.
The Rotorua local has been head coach of the Black Ferns Sevens since taking over from Tauranga’s Sean Horan in 2016.
He missed the last three World Series tournaments to focus on family matters back home in Rotorua but is now back at the helm, driving the Black Ferns Sevens campaign all the way he hopes to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Allan says what he missed the most from his time away was just being around the sevens team.
“I have definitely missed the ladies who are a special group of players. The coaching group are all pretty close mates and it has always been a pretty horizontal leadership sort of style.
“I guess now it shares the load a bit more and frees us up for what is going to be a massive year ahead.”
The Tokyo Olympics has been in the planning over the last three years without becoming the sole goal.
“We took all the learnings from the last cycle and our campaign goals. We won gold at the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup and we wanted to be dominant in the world. So far we have done that but this year to come is the most important bit.
“We have to put that recent success behind us, take the things we are doing really, really well but then look at the things we haven’t done quite as well. But it is almost still like game by game for us as there are always things to work on.
“So it is definitely not aiming just for the Olympics now. Every opportunity we get to stay in the World Series is another opportunity to grow, make mistakes and learn from that. The most important part is we enjoy the journey.”
Allan and his coaching team know the other teams around the world are consistently getting better with the women’s tournaments highly competitive.
The Black Ferns are now based at The University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance at Mount Maunganui.
This has certainly made a positive impact on every aspect preparing the team for tournaments.
“We have so much more time now. Before centralisation we wanted to do a lot more but we couldn’t so had to just focus on the critical things that were going to give us what we needed,” says Allan.
“The standard of skill from when I first started and the players’ physical ability has grown and this year you will get another spike I would say because they know what is at stake at the end. There is a real constant drive and competition in the squad to make the final team.”
Ironically, Allan says now that the men’s and women’s teams are based in Mount Maunganui there is a need for the players to have a break away from each other.
“One of the past strengths was that excitement when we came together so it is important to get that balance right so we are not overdoing it and we are not becoming sick of each other. I think that is the real key. We have a good balance from last season moving into this season now.”
* HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series women’s round 1, October 5-6, Glendale, Colorado.