Chiefs player Etene Nanai-Seturo still wants an Olympic gold

Etene Nanai-Seturo wants an Olympic gold medal in sevens after a season with the Chiefs. That much is certain.

What’s far less certain is a straight answer to sport’s biggest question in 2021: will the Tokyo Olympics go ahead?

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to start on July 23 after being postponed a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rugby sevens, with respective men’s and women’s tournaments running consecutively from July 26-31, will grace the Olympics for the second time after it was introduced in Rio in 2016.

New Zealand’s teams are among the favourites for gold after failing to capture the top prize in Rio – the men finishing fifth and the women claiming silver – but the threat of cancellation still lingers because Covid-19 continues to rage in Japan after resurging since last November.

Organisers are adamant the Games will go ahead and release a “Playbook” this week for a “safe and successful” Olympics amid a pandemic, but that is unlikely to quell the concerns of athletes.

Nevertheless, Nanai-Seturo seems relaxed about the situation he and his team-mates face if the sevens takes place at an Olympics which could be dramatically affected by tough Covid-19 restrictions, something New Zealand hasn’t been gripped by since last year, but is normal overseas.

The talented 21-year-old outside back is first committed to getting more minutes under new Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan in Super Rugby Aotearoa when their campaign starts against the Highlanders in Hamilton on March 5.

“He’s all about the mahi but having fun as well,” Nanai-Seturo told Stuff. “We’ve got to do the mahi before we earn the treats.

“He’s been really good and you can tell when he speaks, all the boys listen and respect him.”

Nanai-Seturo can only hope the Olympics do go ahead if he wants to win another gold medal in sevens after playing in New Zealand’s success at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

“I’m focusing on the Aotearoa competition first,” he said.

“Covid has been ruining everyone’s plans but I’m here, focused on training well for the Chiefs, and hopefully get to play some games.”

Nanai-Seturo is embarking on his fourth season in rugby after a controversial switch from league in 2018, but he will have to earn his place in the Chiefs’ back three after playing just three of eight matches – two starts and one five-minute appearance off the bench – when he joined the squad after the international sevens season was suspended because of Covid-19.

Other sevens stars lining up for Super Rugby and then in contention for the Olympics include All Blacks winger Caleb Clarke, who was a revelation last year, his new Blues team-mate Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Hurricanes flyer Salesi Rayasi, and the Highlanders’ Jona Nareki and Vilimoni Koroi.

An Olympic gold medal in Tokyo is such an enticing prize for that contingent and the opportunity might never be possible again in their careers.

There will come a time this season when they have to decide whether they want to go for gold, Covid-19 permitting.

Super Rugby Aotearoa starts on February 26 and the final of the trans-Tasman competition is scheduled for June 19.

an Oceania sevens tournament in Australia or New Zealand in late March/early April.

The World Sevens Series is tentatively scheduled to kick off again in London and Paris in May/June. New Zealand were declared winners of the last respective men’s and women’s series after Covid-19 ended the season.

The pandemic also led to the cancellation of New Zealand leg’s of the 2021 series in Hamilton, the event’s host city since 2018.