Why We Must Keep Baber

With his expertise, Baber was able to devise plans and re-design the sevens team’s strategies after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was deferred to this year.
16 Sep 2021 17:03
Why We Must Keep Baber
Inset: Coach Gareth Baber with manager Jone Niurua and the Fijian men’s rugby sevens team after winning the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Many wondered why Fiji Rugby Union opted for an ‘unknown’ Gareth Baber to coach our national sevens team.

This was after high profile sevens coaches of Sir Gordon Tietjens and Damian McGrath had applied for the job.

The country was on a high after the gold medal win at the 2016 Rio Olympics and then coach, Ben Ryan had decided to move on.

Baber at that time was the Hong Kong 7s coach with very little experience of coaching in the HSBC World Sevens Series. Under his belt he had coaching stints with Cardiff Blues, Wales Under-20 and 7s teams.

But why him?

One of the interview panelists said, what impressed them was Baber’s educational background.

He was a Master of Science (MsC) graduate- Transportation and Materials Moving- from Cardiff University. Baber also had a Bachelor of Science (BSc)- Economic and Social History- from the Swansea University before obtaining a Dip Soc. Oxon from the renowned Oxford University.

“To be someone who is an expert of transportation, he must be good with planning and dealing with logistics,” the panelist said at that time.

This explained why the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union had took Baber on and based him at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.

His role at the institute was to design, implement and manage the sevens rugby programme to facilitate the development of up to 50 male and female, senior and junior players.

This was integrated into the elite departments of Sports Science, Sports Medicine, Sports Nutrition, Sports Psychology, Athlete and Lifestyle Management and Strength and Conditioning.


Adapt to changes

With his expertise, Baber was able to devise plans and re-design the sevens team’s strategies after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was deferred to this year.

With the support of the decision makers at Rugby House, they were able to come up with the four-tournament Super Sevens Series.

The series was to give game time to members of the Fijian 7s men’s and women’s training squads.

This was to prepare them for the Olympics since the World Sevens Series was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The other challenge faced was when key forward, Paula Dranisinukula opted out of the squad, the career threatening injury on Kalione Nasoko and the danger of losing Jerry Tuwai when he was offered a lucrative overseas contract.

By then Aminiasi Tuimaba and Vilimoni Botitu had left to join their clubs in France.

“I was absolutely gutted to see Paula leave the side during our preparations for the Olympics. I visited Paula.

“He advised me that he had to leave rugby and concentrate on his responsibilities and obligations as a father who wants to provide and look after his family for the next 10 to 15 years.

“With Paula leaving, Kalione Nasoko being injured and an uncertain Jerry Tuwai who had received a lucrative deal in the US, I was running out of experienced players so the thought of re-setting the team came,” Baber told FRU Media.

And this Baber executed it well combining a few old hands with newbies Jiuta Wainiqolo, Iosefo Masi and Sireli Maqala as they won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Baber is the right person to plan, design and implement a sevens programme and development in the country. And at the same time, create a pathway for sevens’ players as they move up to the fifteens code.

He must stay to continue from where he had left off.

Speaking to FRU Media, Baber rightfully said, that he has what it takes to lift sevens rugby to the next level.

“I know what needs to be done in this period of time,” Baber said.

Now with his experience, Baber is definitely our man.

With his contract ending in December, it’s best we sign him on as we still need a quality coach like him to lead our sevens rugby into the future.

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