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Give It To Coach Gareth Baber And The Fiji 7s Boys

To suggest Baber deserves the sack after Canada, as some on Facebook have, is illogical and just plain wrong.
12 Mar 2019 11:00
Give It To Coach Gareth Baber And The Fiji 7s Boys
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s reps Seremaia Tuwai and Mesulame Kunavula in action against USA at the Canada 7s in Vancouver on March 11, 2019. Photo: Ian Muir

The Fiji Airways Fijian 7s team over­came an injury-hit campaign at the USA-Canada cluster of the 2018/19 HSBC World Sevens Series to record a strong third-placed finish in Vancouver yesterday.

Despite injuries to key players – from Wai­sea Nacuqu in Las Vegas to captain Kalione Nasoko in Vancouver – Gareth Baber’s men overcame adversity to claim the bronze medal.

Aminiasi Tuimaba, Seremaia Tuwai and Vilimoni Botitu also appeared to be playing with injuries, as the depth of Baber’s squad was put through a daunting test.

To suggest Baber deserves the sack after Canada, as some on Facebook have, is illogi­cal and just plain wrong.

The Welshman deserves credit for the way Fiji recovered from a sixth-place finish in Las Vegas a week earlier to come within one match of playing the Cup final.

Although the injuries forced Baber to tweak his approach a little, the coach stuck with the big-risk, big-reward style of rugby Fijian teams have become renowned for.

That positivity paid dividends in the bronze medal showdown against Series leaders USA, with Fiji recording a professional 24-14 win.

The 22-21 win over New Zealand in the Cup quarter-final was Fiji at their very best, com­bining disciplined defending with lightning quick attacks to hurt the Kiwis.

Fiji Airways Fijian 7s rep Asaeli Tuivoka against South Africa at the Canada 7s in Vancouver on March 11, 2019. Photo: Ian Muir

Fiji Airways Fijian 7s rep Asaeli Tuivoka against South Africa at the Canada 7s in Vancouver on March 11, 2019. Photo: Ian Muir

Paula Dranisinukula had to step in as re­placement captain, and he put in a solid shift on the final day alongside Mesulame Kuna­vula and the hard-running Sevuloni Mocena­cagi.

The team has had problems this season with discipline, and with the recent injuries, are in a difficult situation ahead of the Hong Kong/Singapore leg next month.

But the gallant performance in Canada shows they have the personalities in the team to succeed even when all odds appear stacked against them.

Responding in Hong Kong next month, where Fiji will be chasing its 19th title, will be crucial for the team’s overall Series ambitions.

The Series is still there for the taking with four more tournaments to go (Hong Kong, Sin­gapore, London and Paris) and Fiji is firmly in control of their own destiny.

A win in Hong Kong could prove to be the catalyst that revives Fiji’s chances of winning its first series title since the 2015/16 season.

Edited by Osea Bola

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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