Team sports may be NZ's best medal chance

2:47 pm on 3 October 2010

Team sports look like New Zealand's best chance for a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

The Rugby Sevens team are favourites to win their tournament, while the Silver Ferns netball side should make it to the final. But hockey may have to settle for a silver or bronze.

Sevens was not added to the Commonwealth Games programme until 1998 and since winning in Kuala Lumpur, Gordon Tietjens has coached New Zealand to successive gold medals in Manchester and Melbourne.

At previous games, he has been able to include stars such as Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen but the additions to this year's squad are fringe All Blacks Zac Guildford, Ben Smith, Hosea Gear and a Melbourne Games medalist Liam Messam, who replaces the injured Adam Thomson.

Tietjens says lack of time together compared with some other teams is a big challenge for New Zealand, whose Pool A opponents are Guyana and two of the less successful World Series regulars.

The New Zealand Sevens side leaves Dubai on Friday to prepare for Delhi. The competition starts on 11 October.

Silver Ferns defending champs

The New Zealand netballers are also defending champions and the Silver Ferns have played Australia in all three gold medal matches since 1998.

Seven of the 12 players in the squad were at the Melbourne Games in 2006, including goal shoot Irene van Dyk, mid-courter Temepara George and defender Casey Williams, who will captain the side.

Their recent three-Test series suggests another tight battle and Silver Ferns coach Ruth Aitken concedes Australia have the edge.

However, she says England can't be discounted, nor can Jamaica.

The Silver Ferns' first game is against Papua New Guinea on Monday.

Tough time ahead for hockey teams

The men's and women's hockey teams have world rankings of seventh and should be medal prospects, as most top teams are not in the Commonwealth.

Australia are the favourites for both gold medals with England, New Zealand and India likely to battle for silver and bronze.

The Black Sticks men's team have good records against Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and South Africa.

But vice-captain Dean Couzins says in recent years, they have had a running battle with the fourth team in their pool - most recently at the Champions Trophy, where England won 4-3 to to reach the final against Australia.

Black Sticks women's captain Kayla Sharland says England will be their toughest pool play opponent also and have enjoyed the benefit of extra money in preparation for hosting the London Olympics in 2012.

The Black Sticks women start against Wales on Monday, while the men begin their campaign against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday.