ANOTHER blow has been dealt to our rugby sevens campaign with the withdrawal of assistant coach Etuate Waqa to take up a sevens coaching offer from Tonga.
Our loss is Tonga's gain and while there are other coaching experts out there we should also be glad that the Tongans have finally realised what we have been seeing for many years and that they have the potential to make it big in the code.
Now that Waqa becomes the coaching director — responsible for all sevens rugby — he has a free hand in developing the talents of the Friendly Islanders.
In the past years some Tongan teams have succeeded in tournaments and have even beaten Fiji, New Zealand and other top teams in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
But what they lack is consistency and they can be very devastating on the first day but come Day 2 and they fizzle out.
In previous Hong Kong Sevens before the HSBC Sevens World Series they have always featured in the plate final and many times against Hong Kong.
Waqa has a hard task in front of him and he will have his hands full and to make his job easier he may have to recruit some Fijian sevens players to join him and boost his preparation.
Now that Waqa is gone, former Wallaby Acura Niuqila or Timoci Wainiqolo may be roped in.
The HSBC Sevens World Series beginning next month in Gold Coast, 2013 Sevens Rugby World Cup in Russia and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are the immediate goals in front of us and riding on the wave of the past sevens season's success Fiji can win all three.
Our Fiji Rugby Union may be short of money but they are on the right track as far as preparation is concerned.
The sevens workshop conducted to sharpen mental preparation and attitude was long overdue and we are glad that national sevens coach Alifereti Dere has the professional approach that is needed for the modern game.
His squad is made up players who have proven themselves in fifteens rugby and those who lacked exposure in the full code have been included in the Namosi provincial side that swept through the Ba division and walloped Rewa in the promotion/relegation match at Ratu Cakobau Park last Saturday.
Wainiqolo, a member of the 1991 winning team led by Dere, has been working with the national coach and a majority of the champion Warden players are in the national sevens team.
While Dere may be looking for a temporary replacement for Metuisela Talebula at the playmaker's position, a stop gap solution would be the recruitment of Nadroga's Jiuta Lutumailagi.
Lutumailagi was the established national sevens playmaker until his car accident in 2010 and last Saturday he showed that he still has the skills required for the job and he has been consistently playing club rugby.
Small in size he was a devastating tackler and fans still remember when he made a try-saving dive tackle on a Samoan in 2010 during a sevens circuit match.
Last Saturday he set up two Nadroga tries with two beautiful flat passes setting up fullback Meli Kurisaru and Mesulame Soga for tries and since they were a couple of steps deep they ran to latch on to the ball at full speed and that took them past defenders.
Another potential playmaker for the future is Northland pivot Ilimeleki Leiloma who played soundly for the cup challengers.
He displayed slick footwork and was ambidextrous in his ball handling, definitely vital credentials needed for a sevens playmaker.
We end this column with some flashback from the past a couple of stories from the Fijian rugby tour of New Zealand in 1951 and Australian tour of 1954 as related to Boot Magazine by the late Suliasi Vatubua the record-breaking halfback of those tours.
Among the 1951 team players were Fiji heavyweight boxers Savenaca Pe and Isimeli Radrodro.
Against the New Zealand Maoris the referee was confused when in a melee at the tryline he saw two different arms raised claiming the try.
They were the arms of Radrodro and Pe.
But when the tryline was cleared it was found that Radrodro had scored the try and Pe had mistaken Radrodro's head for the ball.
In 1952 it was the dawn of an era as the Fijians toured Australia. Australian Rugby Union was facing difficulties and when the All Blacks came to play in 1951 only 4000 came to watch them play.
The Aussies were moving to Australian Football, cricket and rugby league and the union crowd was dwindling so was the general interest.
Fiji's flamboyant style and open play caught Australia by storm and when Fiji faced the Wallabies in the second test in 1952 a crowd of 42,000 came to watch our players.
This was influenced by the performance in the first test and the couple of mid-week displays made by the Fijians and among the team was none other than the legendary Narewa, Nadi flyer Joe Levula.
The good memories of 1952 was shattered in the first test of 1954 when a free for all brawl took place.
The Australians knew that the only way to distract the Fijians was by using foul tactics and this they used to great effect.
A Lebanese, Sheaddie, played prop for the Wallabies and every time he packed in he threw a punch first to his opposition.
Fiji, on the other hand had a hot-tempered fullback Taniela Ranavue.
"Someone has to punch that prop he is getting away with a lot of foul play and punching," called out Ranavue to his forwards. (Me dua me vacuka mada na tamata qori. Sa rui levu tiko na nona qito ca.)
After several calls went unheeded Ranavue, a big sized fullback, ran from twenty metres away and punched the Lebanese in the face while the scrum was still formed giving him a big black eye.
A big fight erupted and in the end Fiji lost the Test with Ranavue the cause of eleven penalties.
While rugby has vastly improved the rules has also been strict and that South African elbow that hit All Blacks captain Richie McCaw in last Saturday's test has the player facing further charges. It is mild compared to the brutalities that we once witnessed at all levels in amateur days.
While they may have been entertaining to the spectators of those days they no longer are in this professional era.
There's a time for everything, they say.