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The missing edge

Kameli Rakoko
Thursday, November 22, 2012

FIJIAN rugby suffered another painful blow last Sunday morning after that embarrassing 53-0 loss to a second-string Irish team.

And the sluggish performance of our national team again proved the point that fitness experts have been raising since our Rugby World Cup loss in 2011 — there is something wrong with our fitness regime and that someone is sleeping on the job.

Where we once dominated with our physical presence and speed and agility is no longer the case and Ireland showed what we used to be like — fast, crisp and agile.

After the hue and cry over our lack of scrummaging power we matched the Irish in the scrums but what good did it bring us — just more balls to use aimlessly.

Overseas experts joining the Fijian touring team have shown nothing much in the team improvement for the simple fact that our players do not have the aerobic fitness to keep up with play and the strength to maintain intensity.

We may have learnt some new techniques in scrummaging but we lack the strength to execute it.

After the loss three times in a row there's doubt that we can win against lowly-rated Georgia.

A loss in the Test this weekend will only send our international ranking spinning on a downward spiral and definitely it will nullify and cast a bad picture on the positive steps we have made so far.

Former Fiji under-21 coach Rupeni Tamani expressed the same sentiments regarding the physical fitness of our players and questioned the training program Fiji rugby players are using.

"It's time we use people who have proven themselves to train the national team and the training should be based on game situations, not just gym workout," he said.

Tamani, who runs a Kaji rugby skills academy, said it was time we realised that we should base our national team selection on local players and that being dependent on overseas-based players was a futile exercise with all the problems that we have to go through.

Tamani said Nadroga's Mosese Volavola was the most experienced local number eight that the coaching team should have used instead of specialist flankers Akapusi Qera and Nemani Nagusa. They were inexperienced in the position and made basic mistakes.

Tamani said there was not much difference between local and overseas-based players so we might as well have the bulk of our team from local ruggers with a couple of overseas players.

The fact that replacement prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa looked the fittest of the lot pointed to the fact that the training used by the national team was below par. Yanuyanyutawa was a late inclusion into the touring side.

Tamani also said Naikatini was the only player who was able to make the pass in a tackle and the body positioning of our players going into the tackles was poor and the Irish were able to turn over possessions time and again.

Many rugby fans have lost interest in following the team on tour and switched their attention to sevens rugby now preparing for the Dubai and George leg of the HSBC sevens series.

National coaching director Franck Boivert is not part of the touring team and has stayed behind.

While he has not been directly involved in the decision making of the team, he is answerable to the rugby public as he is the coaching director and rugby fans all over the country are hoping he makes some decisive steps in the coming weeks to correct the wrongs.

Our passing moves were pathetic, almost static and predictable while the Irish ran into their passes at full speed and that was why they cut gaping holes in our defence.

Tamani also said the selection of former national rep Viliame Satala to be national backline coach in his first year as a coach was a mistake and has produced no significant result.

Fiji had overlooked the experience of proven successful coach Esala Nauga, he said.

Meanwhile, coach Inoke Male still has the chance to make amends in the remaining days by taking over the training and whipping the team into form — rain, hail or storm.

Fingers have also been pointed at the captaincy of Deacon Manu as a probable factor to the burden of leading has affected his play.

His decision making was questionable and he missed tackles and commited basic mistakes

Now more than ever Fiji needs a Fijian speaking captain who can motivate and psyche our players to make that final onslaught and bring some respectability.

Lastly, my Kinoya grog mates came up with some interesting suggestions trying to lighten the situation and looking at the funny side of things.

And like all groggy yarns it should not be taken seriously.

Mr A suggested that we should do away with the i bole or cibi before important rugby tests.

The cibi or i bole is a taunt challenging the opposing team to a dare.

It's alright for the Kiwis to do the haka, because they play like they dance, he added.

Mr B pointed out that the last thing we need is to psyche the opposition up and provide them good reasons to enjoy beating us.

With our current form we absolutely don't need it and it's also a colonial relic that has no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the game, it's just entertainment, he said.

Mr C said that if that's the case and the crowd want entertainment then a seasea, hula or a tuiboto could be more effective.

Because it will not motivate the opposition but entertain and distract them to the point of losing their competitive edge.

At the same time it will relax our players and it has been proven that our players play better when they are relaxed and laughing, said Mr C.

Funny comments perhaps with some deep truths.

Have a laugh boys, but go get them Georgians and don't lose hope.

All is not lost. Go Fiji Go.

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