Analysis: Our 12 Tips For Tokyo

Now five years later after the Osea Kolinisau-captained side won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics, mercurial Seremaia ‘Jerry’ Tuwai, hopes to make it two from two.
28 Jun 2021 15:18
Analysis: Our 12 Tips For Tokyo
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s squad member, Sireli Maqala fends off a New Zealand player during the Oceania 7s on June 26, 2021. Photo: Oceania Rugby

Fiji Airways Fijian 7s head coach Gareth Baber is in for a long week as he finalised his team for the Tokyo Olympics after the conclusion of the Oceania 7s yesterday.

While the Welshman is spoiled for choice, he will have to make some tough decisions and may be forced to leave out some fine rugby players who have sacrificed a lot over the last few years.

Now five years later after the Osea Kolinisau-captained side won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics, mercurial Seremaia ‘Jerry’ Tuwai, hopes to make it two from two.

Whoever is selected in the final 12 will be giving their all and as in 2016, the team will not lack motivation.

When the side humbled Team GB in 2016, they were inspired by the challenges faced in the lead up to the Olympics as Fiji were still picking up the pieces after being battered by the strongest cyclone (T/C Winston).

Fast forward and the players are faced with a similar story albeit through a COVID-19 pandemic.

Oceania 7s is done and dusted and has allowed the team to dust off the cobwebs of over 16 months of non-competition.

It gave the coaching panel an insight as well on areas to improve on before the big dance.

Kick-offs, conversions

If the Fijian 7s side wants to set Tokyo alight, two areas they will need to improve on from the weekend will be the kick-offs and converting tries.

Against New Zealand, they would not have been won by a whisker (21-19) if not for the missed conversions.

In tight matches, conversions play a very critical part.

Players like Sireli Bobo, Semisi Naevo, Isake Katonibau, Mesake Rasari, Inoke Wainiqolo, Apolosi Satala and more recently Semi Kunatani, Viliame Mata, Pio Tuwai, Mesulame Kunavula and the likes have ensured Fiji has an edge in retaining kick-offs.

Maqala in?

Could Sireli Maqala’s performance in Townsville cement his place in Baber’s final 12 member side for Tokyo.

The 21-year-old Ra native, could be mistaken for former national 7a winger Eroni Sau but he grabbed the opportunity in Townsville with both hands.

His first try against NZ was magical and he ran fine support lines throughout the tournament.

A deft right step and speed to burn could propel him for a ticket to Japan.

No doubt Baber will closely scrutinise France-based 15s players Aminiasi Tuimaba and Vilimoni Botitu who played their first game yesterday.

If Baber will want the tested and tried, experience over conditioning, than it is likely he will take either Botitu or Tuimaba to Tokyo.

But it is unlikely that he will take both given that Semi Radradra is also crossing over from 15s to 7s and it’;s a risk too big for Baber to take three 15s players to a tournament that does not get bigger than the Olympics.

And given that the former Hong Kong 7s mentor is spoiled for backline players who have and are conditioned for 7s, taking both Botitu and Tuimaba or neither will not be a tough selection.

Players such as Jerry Tuwai, Livai Ikanikoda, Napolioni Bolaca, Waisea Nacuqu and Kitione Taliga can play a number positions in the backline especially playmaker, halfback and rover.

Throw in Alasio Naduva and Semi Radradra and you already have seven players that filled Baber roster.

If Baber takes either Tuimaba or Botitu, the only player likely to miss out from the backline will be Ikanikoda.

In the forwards, Baber will likely take Josua Vakurunabili, Meli Derenalagi, Kavekini Tabu, Asaeli Tuivuaka and Kalione Nasoko.

Sireli Maqala has to be the 13th player, as he will be too hard to leave out.

Edited by Osea Bola


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