Editorial comment – Keeping our hopes alive

The Fiji 7s team in a huddle.Picture: WORLD RUGBY/MIKE LEE

IT was tough watching the Vancouver leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series yesterday!

Watching the national side succumb 19-26 to the might of hosts Canada in Vancouver that is.

It certainly wasn’t a result fans wanted, especially after our losses in Las Vegas the previous weekend.

We were definitely in a tough pool with Canada, Kenya and the ever-improving Samoa.

Defeating Kenya in our first game was supposed to ignite things for the national side in the pool rounds.

The loss to Canada was frustrating though.

However, it showed our weaknesses.

National coach Gareth Baber has the task of putting together an effective plan against the frustrating attacks by opposition sides now against Fiji.

It is the go-to plan against Fiji.

Deny Fijians possession, and you stand a chance of beating them.

That means playing patient rugby, retaining possession, and frustrating the Fijians out of the game.

When interviewed by Canadian media, Connor Braid said of the win: “We frustrated them.”

He spoke of a concerted effort to minimise turnovers.

“The crowd helped out big time,” he said.

Coach Damian McGrath, he said, had pulled no punches after their shocking loss to Samoa earlier.

When interviewed by Canadian media, McGrath said he was pleased with his team’s turnaround performance.

“In the three years I’ve been involved (with Canada), that performance against Samoa was the worst … I asked them some questions and they answered the way I want,” he was quoted saying.

“With a team like Fiji, in particular, you can’t stand back and admire them. You have to be all over them like a rash and that was the plan. They harried them and they hassled them, yes we got the odd bounce of the ball but you earn that in rugby sevens. I was really pleased.”

The challenge now is with Baber.

He must plan accordingly.

The New Zealand All Blacks proved it in Sydney, the US proved it in Vegas and Canada proved it yesterday.

Baber must come up with a plan that puts us back in the driver’s seat.

He must work out counters that will disrupt opposition sides trying to nullify our attacking prowess, chew up the time on the clock, and frustrate us out of games.

Whether he ups the focus on how we challenge the breakdowns or the kick-offs, he has his work cut out.

Fans will no doubt be keen to see effective counter-measures against a trend that is upsetting our game.

Victory against Samoa though was sweet and fans will be hoping it is a sign of things to come in day two of the tournament.

Meanwhile, it was pleasing to note the abundance in sevens talent at the Waimanu 7s at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori on Saturday.

Tabadamu hardman Leo Naikasau was on fire.

He ran strong lines in attack and held up well in defence, and was a constant hard man to get down with his powerful runs, scoring tries and pushing beautiful passes for support players to score.

But if there were surprise packages to be unveiled then it had to come from a team from Saqani in Vanua Levu.

The bunch of unknown players had size, pace and understanding of the game.

They did not make it past the elimination stages, however, displayed glimpses of brilliance in attack and defence to keep our ‘factory’ of sevens rugby talent churning.

It is clear we have talents galore.

The onus is on the governing Fiji Rugby Union and Baber to be on the lookout and identify potential candidates for our Olympic gold medal-winning sevens brand.

Go Fiji, go.

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