SPORTS | Sunvoice

Nemani Delaibatiki: Wake-Up Call For Baber And His Young Team

The Fijians’ losses in Dubai and Cape Town were signs that they were missing that competitive edge. The signs were confirmed in Hamilton.
27 Jan 2020 11:32
Nemani Delaibatiki: Wake-Up Call For Baber And His Young Team
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s head coach Gareth Baber feels the heat after the team failed to defend their title at the New Zealand 7s in Hamilton on January 26, 2020. Photo: Bruce Southwick/ZoomFiji

Editorial:

With the Japan Olympics only months away, the Fiji Airways men’s national 7s reps’ shock loss to Argentina at Hamilton is a wake-up call.

While our women’s reps have shown significant improvement, we cannot say the same for our men’s team based on what they displayed yesterday in front of a passionate and boisterous crowd of their fans.

Let’s not panic. The reps had an off-day yesterday. The Fijian fans’ expectation was huge. The pressure of retaining the title, for the third year in a row, might have gotten to them. They succumbed under this pressure and Argentina exploited it well.

But then some people will say that at this level they are supposed to overcome it.

That’s the crux of the matter. So as Gareth Baber goes back to the drawing board this is one area he needs to look at seriously.

The challenge is to get them mentally ready and prepared to overcome whatever is thrown at them.

Yesterday, they were outwitted and outplayed by the Argentineans who played smart rugby.

Our reps seemed lethargic and stunned when the opposition piled on 21 points in the first half. The Argentineans starved them of possession, the only way the opposition knew to take the sting out of the dangerous Fijians.

They knew that the Fijians have the firepower right across the park. But without the ball, they can’t do much.

Mistakes compounded the Fijians’ nightmare. Kick-offs were lost to the opposition and they gave away the ball in contact situations. Wrong decisions made it more difficult for them. When they were expected to pass, they kicked.

They cannot afford to do that at this level. Every country is building up to the Olympics where Fiji hopes to defend the Rio gold medal.

All teams will be hoping to peak at the right time.

The Fijians’ losses in Dubai and Cape Town were signs that they were missing that competitive edge. The signs were confirmed in Hamilton.

For Baber and the brains trust, they have to decide whether to continue with the same squad or inject some experience and new blood before the Olympics.

It’s a tough call because this current squad has been with Baber all this time.

If they had retained the Hamilton title and now go on to win the Sydney title this weekend, it would have justified Baber keeping the same players.

The Olympics is a different stage. Gold is the ultimate prize for every sportsperson.

If they fail to retain the HSBC World Series title but win gold again in Japan, it would redeem them. The disappointment of losing in Hamilton would also be erased.

That’s why Baber and his coaching team have to be pragmatic. They have to remove any weak link and bring in players who will add strength to it.

Meli Derenalagi is a great player but the captaincy role might have added unnecessary pressure on him.  All issues must go on the table to reset the Olympic chart.

There is time and it can be done.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

Fijisun E-edition
Total Excellium
Subscribe-to-Newspaper
Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper