Learn From 2018 Flop, Go Local, Gareth

 What we need to remember is the Tokyo Olympics is all about the extraordinaire, a podium and the gold, anything less is considered a failure 
30 Mar 2021 14:52
Learn From 2018 Flop, Go Local, Gareth
Fiji Shadow playmaker, Kitione Taliga, on the attack against Moala during the Fiji Bitter Marist 7s on March 26, 2021. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Our Fiji Airways Fijian 7s coach is hard focused on building a competitive team for the Olympic Games gold medal title defence in Tokyo, Japan, in July.

And from what Gareth Baber has hinted, that while he has penciled his training squad, no one has yet been inked a spot on the team have. Some observers believe our coach already has a team.

The Fiji Shadow team that won the 45th Fiji Bitter Sapphire Marist 7s is likely the go-to Olympic side unless changes are made with the inclusion of the overseas-based players.

It is hard though, not to forget that Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova, Semi Kunatani and Leone Nakarawa made 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens team played at AT&T Park in San Francisco.  Despite sevens legend Waisale Serevi giving his countrymen 98 per cent to win, our men flopped badly.

We lost to New Zealand 22-17 in the semifinals and South Africa, 22-19, for the third-place finish, so what is to suggest their inclusion will spring in things differently.

Not that these players are anyway, they are world class athletes. It is just that they are in their 30s and fitness and playing in the high intensity sevens game involves repetitive high-speed running with short recoveries between running bouts as well as frequent intense contact and collisions.

Better yet, it is the physical fitness and conditioning that better prepares players to perform at all levels of the game.

Besides Radradra, it was evidently clear the rest were not fit including Tuisova, who played through a shoulder injury, aggravated it, and showed discomfort while Kunatani pulled a hamstring.

Our coach, Baber, had spoken highly about these players ahead of the RWCS, but following defeats to New Zealand and South Africa, he took a swipe on the fitness level on these players, in both the games we were outwitted and outplayed.

For Kunatani has declared unavailability and if Tuisova and Radradra are willing to join the team they should send their intent.

That is, negotiate with their clubs for release and join the training squad at an earliest, otherwise Baber’s best bet would be to go all local players.

And as for Nakarawa who was at his meanest best during the Rio Olympics Games, making the team is all but over.

If the locals hold our ticket to Tokyo Olympics Games, then they must ramp up on Baber’s intensive training guidelines, respond accordingly and impress.

This includes the mainstays, Kalione Nasoko, Meli Derenalagi, Josua Vakurunabuli,  Seremaia ‘Jerry’ Tuwai, Asaeli Tuivuaka, Waisea Nacuqu, Napolioni Ratu, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Alasio Naduva and Livai Ikanikoda.

Same is expected out of former Olympian, Kitione Taliga, Iosefo Masi, Josevata Talacolo, Onisi Ratave and Sireli Maqala.

The regulars of the World Sevens Series, who made the Fiji Shadow team must remember that Tokyo Olympics are far greater in competition than the Raiwasa Taveuni team that tested the mettle.

The Garden Island of Fiji team ran a clinic of their own as Baber’s men were at sixes and sevens, each time they came from behind to win it, 7-5, 14-12.

The Fiji Shadow team was also tested by Wardens, winning 14-10 on a review call and reversal of the decisions.

Raiwasa Tavueni and Wardens just did not thrill the fans with good rugby but dropped seasoned jaws.

The teams made up of the ordinary, made the extraordinary look ordinary.

What we need to remember is the Tokyo Olympics is all about the extraordinaire, a podium and the gold- anything less is considered a failure.

Between now and then, Baber has a deck to shuffle, erase the penciled, and inked the final squad.



Advertise with us

Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

Rewa Diwali Promo Banner
For All Fiji Sun Advertising
Fijisun E-edition