THE Australia Schoolboys have once again beaten the Fiji Schoolboys and we failed again because of what officials claim to be lack of preparation.
What a time to find out that we were unfit.
Were any fitness tests held? How long have we known about this Australian tour?
How come the Presidents XV won, were they fitter?
These are the kind of questions rugby fans will be asking after revelation by team manager Setareki Merekula that lapse of concentration towards the end was a result of lack of fitness and short preparation.
Australia Schoolboys coach Steve Phillpotts noted Merekula's observation that "we have been together for a while and fitness probably kicked in".
Phillpotts said, "We are happy with the performance and the boys showed a lot of character. The boys stuck to the game plan."
Last Saturday, the President's XV side manager revealed his players also played according to the game plan.
Well, that's probably what all winning coaches and managers say when their team wins.
However, we give the Fiji manager, officials and the Fiji Secondary Schools Rugby Union the benefit of the doubt as we cannot match the financial status of Australia Rugby Union, only that we are thankful that they are willing to play us now and again.
But since the FSSRU members are teachers and are only part-time coaches, the development arm of the parent body — Fiji Rugby Union — could work out a fitness program for all under-18 players to be followed from the off-season beginning now.
Also, instead of advertising and looking for coaches and officials just months and weeks from the match, why don't we keep the current officials for the next Australia Schoolboys tour in 2014 or on five-year contracts so they have time to prepare and plan.
They can also initiate and organise other international matches and tours or even an internal tour.
As for fitness, the players need to be reminded that fitness is not the responsibility of the coach but the responsibility of every individual.
Fitness tests is one of the greatest motivating tools for Fijian youths these days especially in the off-season.
Telling them to train on their own will be a futile exercise especially during festive seasons.
But if you stick their fitness test results on the gym wall or school notice board or on the village hall, you'll see a miracle.
Just tell them what to do, or give them a program and go have kava and meet them at the next test in two or four weeks time.
The Fijian malua and vucesa fever can only be cured by the Fijian madua pill.
I once assisted former Fiji fullback Jone Ratu in training Davetalevu Rugby Club in Nadroga back in 2002. They asked me before Christmas to help them prepare for the Kalevu Shield challenge, so I told them to keep training and I would just conduct a fitness test in the first week of New Year.
As time was short, fitness tests were held every fortnight and the results were stuck on the wall of one of the homes. There was no proper weights but since the ground was on the beach, bags of sand was used instead.
To cut a long story short, Davetalevu won the Kalevu Shield for the first time beating Conua and it only took the full Nadroga rugby team — masquerading as the PWD club — to wrest the shield away.
So fitness tests not only gauges fitness but is a great motivating tool.
While not all schools have proper weight training, the Ministry of Youth and Sport and the old scholars associations of the school could help out in weight training equipment for the major schools, including those from Vanua Levu and Taveuni, so that a standard training gymnasium is available to students in their schools or at centres near them.
Fitness tests are to be held every month by the school coaches and monitored by the national team officials and FRU development team.
The fitness statistics given by school coaches and a national fitness test of an extended squad in the holidays will be a proper basis of the selection process.
Proper emphasis on the off-season training on endurance and strength will help our schoolboys play 80-minute rugby and give them power to match the forward power of the Aussies.
No longer will we see match reports that say, "The Australian Schoolboys dominated the scrums. They blew away the Fijians in the last five minutes showing superior fitness to score two tries to seal victory."
Last but not least, our under-18 players play 35 minutes in each half during the Deans trophy competition.
If the Test match was 80 minutes with two halves of 40, then that's where we probably fell short.
Our boys were playing Deans competition time while the Aussies were playing Test rugby.
Their mental and physical clock told them that the game was over so the Aussies sneaked through with those tries to win in the final five minutes.
But if the 35-minute halves were used, then switching to 40-minute halves in Deans competition will be the solution.
Definitely food for thought for our rugby big wigs.