Editorial comment – Knuckling down for Vancouver
5 March, 2019, 8:01 am
National coach Gareth Baber yesterday apologised to Fijian fans for our sixth place performance in the Las Vegas 7s at the Sam Boyd Stadium at the weekend.
He understands the impact that effort had on Fijian fans who are arguably the most demanding of rugby sevens fans around the world.
We expect very high standards from our players and coach.
It hasn’t helped the players that our sides over the years have built a reputation that brims with exciting, fun-filled and magical rugby.
They laid the foundation for what has turned out to be a very strong love affair with the abbreviated version of the sport.
We rejoice when our team wins, and there is a sense of frustration every time we lose. Sevens rugby is a bit like a gauge of the pulse of the nation.
We expect our team to always win. We continue to forget that the game has advanced in leaps and bounds.
The advent of the digital age means many things can no longer be taken for granted. Analysis is in real time now.
Teams from the more developed nations are laden with resources, including technical gadgets that allow them to carefully scrutinise opposition sides.
With the World Rugby sevens circuit having two tournaments on a leg, there is great emphasis on turnaround times, between two weekends.
This places attention on recovery ‘tricks’, acclimatisation, diet and motivation.
It makes sense that attention will shift to these areas because of the tight turnaround time from one tournament final to the beginning of the next tournament, in a different country. It is difficult to win two tournaments in a leg when you consider these factors.
However, the Las Vegas 7s champions, the USA, have shown that it can be done.
They have five final appearances on the trot to prove it.
The question is: how did they do that? How did they maintain consistency, maintain an edge over the other teams, and stay motivated after reaching five finals?
How did they get their bodies back into the right state in such a tight turnaround time?
As Baber said yesterday, we let ourselves down.
Trying to stay positive though, he said we have a job to do this weekend in Vancouver.
“We came here last year with the same expectations and didn’t get what we wanted and we went on and won in Vancouver. We have got that very much in mind.”
We finished sixth with the USA winning the top prize and the lead on the series table.
Following our loss to the New Zealand All Blacks in the cup quarter-finals, we edged South Africa 14-12 in the early battle for fifth place.
We succumbed to England though 14-19 to end the event on sixth spot.
As we head across to Vancouver this week, there can be no doubts that fans will be eagerly looking forward to some change.
But that is the challenge Baber and the team have to face.
Can it be done?
We proved it last year. Go Fiji, go.