Editorial comment – No stroll in the park
Fijian fans would have been forgiven if they’d assumed we should have had a smooth path straight into the quarter-finals of the Singapore 7s at the weekend.
Hopes were quite high when we rocked through to a massive 50-12 win over Canada in our first pool match on Saturday.
Hopes would have been pretty high that the score-line would have been the catalyst we needed to rock through to the elimination stages in the wake of our victory at the Happy Valley the previous weekend.
History has proven that the World Rugby Sevens Circuit is tough.
There are no minnows anymore.
Teams from rich nations have the luxury of superior resources including highly technical assistance.
They have the best available coaches money can attract, assistants who review the little bits off the field, from dietary requirements to specific training needs, and recovery techniques.
They have communication aids, the latest video analysis systems, and gadgets that keep a real time track of players on the field of play. Against this sits our campaign.
We may not be as flashy and highly technical.
However, Fiji has the extra little bit that keeps frustrating the big nations.
We have flair, natural skills and an amazing understanding of the game coupled with instinctive responses in tight situations during games.
These obviously are tough to teach.
Then there is the seemingly endless ‘factory line’ of naturally talented youngsters brimming with so much enthusiasm to strut their stuff at the highest level of the sport. Behind us sits the eighth man – our fan base.
Fijian fans can be very vocal, patriotic and very passionate about the team and the sport.
At the weekend, we defeated Canada, but then succumbed to Scotland and South Africa.
The big one ultimately is the defence of the Olympic Games gold medal next year.
There was no doubt an injury to our key man in the backline, Jerry Tuwai on Saturday eventually had an impact on the team’s forays after that Canada game.
We stared at a blankwall against the Scots and later against the Blitzbokkes.
It’s a loophole the other teams will no doubt focus on leading up to the next leg in France and England, and eventually the Olympics. National coach Gareth Baber still has time to address this.
Our attacks were nullified by opposition teams who just had to retain possession, stay focused and patient in Vegas and Vancouver, and we fell by the wayside.
Baber addressed that during the break leading up to Hong Kong where we were named the best in turnover ratings. We dominated the breakdowns on our way to winning our fifth year in a row title in Hong Kong.
In Singapore, our strong work rate in the rucks stood out again, however, it was obvious teams like the Blitzbokkes and Scotland had targetted it as well.
Whatever the outcome this weekend, it was good to see our team pick up the pieces in the quarter-finals to beat New Zealand.
It may not be a stroll in the park, but there are positive signs in this team that Baber should harness and nurture for the future. Go Fiji, go.