FORMER national sevens playmaker Jiuta Lutumailagi may have booked his place in the national team, either in sevens or the fifteens November tour, with a mesmerising display at first five-eighth for Nadroga last Saturday.
His slick passing to set up his teammates, goal kicking and general punting game helped Nadroga overcome a gallant Nadi challenge to retain the Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy 32-14.
Modern rugby has organised an impregnable defence and at times the only way to beat it is through the passing skills and good timing of players running into the passes to take them through the gaps.
That's the kind of flat, well-timed passing Jiuta is a master of and it is quite effective in second phase play.
For the past two defences, Lutumailagi has set up a number of tries through his passing skills and big bombs.
Equally skilful is current national first-five Jonetani Ralulu who came in as replacement in the final quarter. On form the two Nadroga first five-eighths are the best and most experienced we have in the country at the moment.
Now that national sevens playmaker Metuisela Talebula is playing in France, Lutumailagi could find himself back in the sevens squad early next season as the HSBC IRB Sevens World Series ends in April or May.
Lutumailagi missed part of 2010 and 2011 rugby seasons recovering from injuries he received in a car crash.
But he has been consistently playing club games for his champion Tovolea club and two months ago his club ended Davetalevu's unbeaten run in the club competition with a 6-5 win, both penalties coming from Lutumailagi's left boot.
Last Saturday was his third appearance for Nadroga this season and his first time in the starting lineup before Jonetani Ralulu came in as replacement.
Before the accident he was the national sevens team's first choice playmaker.
His big boots, ambidextrous passing game, solid tackling and good decision-making made the then sevens coach Iliesa Tanivula select Lutumailagi his first choice playmaker.
However, it was Lutumailagi who denied Tanivula's men the coveted trophy at Lawaqa last Saturday.
Nadi put up a solid effort that they can be proud of. In the third quarter they camped on Nadroga's 22-metre area with numerous wave after wave of attack on the tryline.
They had a lighter but young and effective pack and the only known players in the side were Ketedromo and Pio Tuwai, who only came in later as replacements. Ketedromo played number eight for Fiji against Tonga at Churchill Park this year and Tuwai is a former national sevens star trying to fight his way back into the national sevens side.
Meanwhile, Emosi Vucago made a surprise appearance for Nadroga as replacement halfback and while he has not lost his cunning and cheeky play at the back of the scrum, he has put on a bit of weight on the waist.
A couple of running stints at the Uluinuku sandhills will see him back in his old form. He has been playing club rugby with Waisale Serevi in the US and he is here for a break.
Young Benji Makutu has been holding the fort well at tighthead prop in the absence of skipper Setefano Samoca and he scored another trademark try, using his weight to barge over Nadi tacklers for the tryline.
His power and strength at tighthead prop helped the Nadroga side also score a pushover try to tighthead flanker Nemani Nagusa.
He is one of the three sons of the Nadroga paramount chief, Na Kalevu na Tui Nadroga, Ratu Sakiusa Makutu and they all play rugby.
He is not the youngest son, as may have been reported; there are the two elder sisters, the elder brother Ratu Tevita, then Ratu Timoci the younger brother in New Zealand.
Suva referee Kaveni Talemaivalagi had good control of the game, keeping up with the very fast game, not making too many mistakes.
In one of his decisions, Nadi was lucky to get away with just a penalty after a retreating Nadi player interfered with Nadroga's passing from a ruck. The same happened in the Wellington-Auckland game in New Zealand when the Wellington player did the same by receiving the pass aimed for the first-five out of a ruck near the tryline.
The Wellington player was yellow-carded and a penalty try was awarded to Auckland.
In the other major game, our schoolboys did the country proud by winning over the Australian Schoolboys 18-9.
It was indeed a historic win and shows great promise for our rugby future in players and coaching capabilities. Schoolteachers are almost always champion coaches as we have said in this column before as the most important aspect of coaching is communication or getting players to understand from the coach's perspective.
Communication is the day-to-day job number of the teacher and non-teacher coaches can use their talents as our national sevens coach Alifereti Dere has been doing using teachers, like Nabua Secondary's Master Elemaca Ravulo, to get the message across.
Most Rugby World Cup winning coaches including New Zealand's Graham Henry and England's Martin Johnson were schoolteachers and the list is endless. One of our most successful coaches was the late Inoke Tabualevu, who coached Fiji to beating the British Lions in 1977 and he was a schoolteacher before he became a diplomat.
However, on the downside, schoolteachers who don't make good coaches are those that treat their players like school kids in the classroom.
They are dictatorial rather than being participative. Because of their higher education, they claim to know everything and no one is right except the coach and players do not have a say.
Sometimes they are officials in the team management and may overrule the coach.
As a result the players dissent and they do not give their best.
The best sign of a good schoolteacher coach was displayed by Henry exchanging high fives with one of his All Blacks players.
Last Saturday, the key to the Fiji schoolboys XV victory was revealed by manager Pita Molidua that the players stuck to the game plan and they got the result they wanted. The message was passed across and the players followed it to the letter because they understood what the coach wanted.
Also that is why Lautoka poses as one of the toughest challenges for the Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy this season as coach Viliame Satala has included schoolteacher and lecturer Master Epeli Lagiloa in the Lautoka team management.
This could be a master stroke for the Sugar City as not only is Lagiloa an experienced coach and fitness guru, he also has a proven record at local to national level with rugby union and rugby league.
Whoever has the silverware on October 13 — Suva, Naitasiri or Nadroga — will have to be super fit and be flawless for 80 minutes if they were to ward off the Maroons.
Finally, rugby brawls has reared its ugly head again, this time in Ba.
Ironically, the supporters fought and the players stuck to the rugby so it is not a rugby problem but a police case.
The laws should come down hard on the culprits as this could kill rugby interest in the soccer district.
Overseas soccer fines clubs for the unruly behaviour of their supporters as clubs should be responsible for their fans and this could be the way to go for Ba Rugby Union meeting this afternoon.
Suspension from club competition for first offenders and ban them the whole season or for one year if they re-offend.
In the case of Nailaga they may have to be suspended for the rest of the season as their supporters have been fighting opposition fans one week after another.
If Ba officials had put their foot down the week before it would not have happened again.
This calls for drastic action as drastic situations calls for drastic measures to keep the sport clean.