SPORTS

Sivo Back To Boost Bati

The Vodafone Fiji Bati head into this Saturday’s Oceania Cup Test against the Kumuls brimming with confidence after a stunning demolition of Samoa in Auckland last weekend.
07 Nov 2019 13:14
Sivo Back To Boost Bati
From Left; Vodafone Fijian Bati reps Tui Kamikamica and Maika Sivo.

Christchurch: The Vodafone Fiji Bati head into this Saturday’s Oceania Cup Test against the Kumuls brimming with confidence after a stunning demolition of Samoa in Auckland last weekend.

This will be the Kumuls’ first Test since a mid-year loss to Samoa, though they had some bright moments in the recent World Cup 9s with a convincing win over USA and a one-point loss to the Kiwis.

They are unfortunately under-strength with an already-limited number of NRL players from which to choose trimmed further with skipper James Segeyaro currently fighting a provisional ASADA ban and injury to Kurt Baptiste. The likes of Justin Olam, Rhyse Martin, Kyle Laybutt and Watson Boas will be crucial to the team’s hopes.

The Rundown

Fiji Bati: Parramatta star Maika Sivo is back on the wing after he was suspended for last week’s win over Samoa. Isaac Lumelume has made way for the Eels speedster.

PNG Kumuls: The Kumuls have named a strong side with Rabbitohs star Alex Johnston lining up at fullback and former Canterbury forward Rhyse Martin named in the second row.

Key match-up

Viliame Kikau v Rhyse Martin. Kikau was a force of nature against Toa Samoa, winding up on that left edge, crashing over for two tries and offloading at will. Martin is arguably the best-credentialled player available to PNG along with Storm centre Justin Olam and will have a huge task in the pack regardless of where he plays but particularly if he lines up as expected on the right edge marking Kikau. A rugged ball runner with a big motor, he will need to provide plenty of starch against an energetic Bati pack.

For Fiji to win

Bottle whatever they had last week and pull it out again. Consistency hasn’t historically been Fiji’s greatest asset at the top level, with massive win over minnows sprinkled with big losses to higher-ranked nations as well as the odd impressive upset. They look near as strong as they ever have, particularly with Sivo’s return from a one-game suspension. Replicate the energy and enthusiasm they ambushed Samoa with and the battle is half-won already.

For PNG to win

It’s about belief as Fiji will have a stronger team on paper. The Kumuls have downed the Bati in their previous two meetings, in 2018 and 2016. The teams are very different this time around but if a Kumuls side renowned for ferocious carries and rugged defensive hits can generate some early momentum – like Fiji did to Samoa last week – anything is possible.

Stat Attack

Fiji’s last up 44-18 win over Samoa was their biggest victory in a game against a tier-one nation or Pasifika nation other than Cook Islands. Following on from the mid-year trouncing of Lebanon they have now won their past two Tests by a combined 102-32. -nrl.com

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