Editorial comment – One for the road
12 March, 2019, 9:13 am
IT wasn’t the result most Fijian fans wanted, but the Vancouver 7s ended in top fashion for a revamped South Africa.
The Blitzbokke beat a resurgent France 21-12 to win in Canada, their first since Paris last season. Prior to that encounter, the two sides had never met in a cup final.
In the end though, big names such as Selvyn Davids and Werner Kok consolidated the South African effort in a tournament that had quite a number of shockers along the way.
While there were many heroes over the two days of tough competition, the highest accolades would have been shared by the French who made an incredible turnaround, making an impact from day one.
They made the news, reaching their first cup final since Port Elizabeth in 2012.
They couldn’t topple the high flying Blitzbokke, however, they showed glimpses of how dangerous they can be on the circuit.
For South Africa captain Philip Snyman, the win was well deserved. He is banking on that victory to motivate his side to new heights in the series.
Perhaps what is frightening though is the realisation that the South Africans, French, the Samoans and Mike Friday’s US are actually improving in leaps and bounds.
They have tonnes of exciting young talent coming through their ranks.
There is growing confidence which is actually good for the sport.
It places pressure on the national side as we gear up for the big one in Hong Kong.
Attention will focus on how national coach Gareth Baber whips us into shape leading up to the next leg.
There will be questions on our preparation for Las Vegas and Vancouver, our squad, backup players and obviously motivation off and on the field.
Injuries are a harsh reality of the game.
We have an exciting side with a host of top class players. We have size, pace, aggression, flair, and passion.
Do we have depth though? Baber has a massive challenge in front of him to get our mix just right for the next leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series.
His challenge will include effectively countering the frustrating gameplans opposition sides are falling back on against Fiji.
New Zealand frustrated us in Sydney, the US frustrated us in Vegas and Canada did the same in Vancouver.
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, controlling the game, and frustrating the Fijians out of it.
Whether he ups the focus on how we challenge the breakdowns or the kick-offs, Baber has his work cut out.
Fans will no doubt be keen to see effective counter-measures against a trend that is upsetting our game.
But it was good to end in Vancouver with that 24-14 win over the US in the final of the bronze play-off yesterday.
Let’s welcome our national side home. Go Fiji, go.