ALIFERETI Dere's national sevens team should be given a chance to redeem themselves in Port Elizabeth before we begin judging them, says a former Fiji halfback.
Former Nadroga and 1968 Fiji halfback Semesa Sacere said it was the first international tournament for the majority of the team and they should be expected to lift their game in South Africa.
He said it was obvious our boys did not have the gas to overcome the other teams and the better team was the one that went to the Gold Coast and they should be retained for the Wellington Sevens.
"The closeness of the scores proves they did not have enough in the tank," he said tapping his chest.
"But they should be given time to develop their combinations and see if they produce the goods.
"My favourite team is Portugal and my favourite player is Pedro Lial. He had begun playing with Serevi about 10 years ago and has developed over the years."
Sacere featured for Fiji in Tests against the Tongans in 1968 and was halfback when they brought the Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy from Nadi in 1971 to spend nine years at Sigatoka.
However, it is not the first time that Fiji has been thrashed in the plate semi-finals. In 2001, under coach Peni Veidreyaki and captained by Sailosi Naiteqe, Fiji were also trounced in South Africa in the then George Sevens plate semi-finals and last year Fiji were also thrashed in the plate final by Wales in Port Elizabeth.
However, no Fiji team has ever gone down to the bowl competition and if coach Dere is not careful his team could be the first as they face New Zealand and England in their pool this weekend.
The side showed glimpses of brilliance with tall Inia Tukere outreaching everyone in aerial battles but he lost three lineout throws to the opposition.
The lineout was predictable and there was no variation to offset the opposition marking.
There were also a lot of play waiting.
Only Lepani Botia had the thrust every time he had the ball.
The side is laden with speedsters and instead of moving the ball from side to side they should run up straight at the opposition in full speed with support close by to draw the opposition defence closer before sending the ball wide.
The width of the field attack is only effective with players with the goosesteps of Waisale Serevi and William Ryder who can beat the man-to-man marking from a stationary position. Skipper Setefano Cakau also has that ability but it has not been seen yet.
Against England Fiji will have to beat the fastest man on the wing in Dan Norton.
Portugal beat England 22-21 in Dubai because they made their attacks through the middle sucking in the defence.
Norton did score two tries but not enough as Portugal had a wealth of possession.
Last year England beat Fiji 21-14 in the Port Elizabeth quarter-finals and Fiji lost to Wales in the plate final 48-0.
Once Dere's men polish their set-pieces this should give Ilai Tinai and Joji Ragamate more chances to create attacking moves.
Also against France last weekend Fiji players were for the first time faced with the fierce French crowd.
The French supporters travel with their brass bands and create havoc with the loud noise of drums and noisy musical instruments.
This is nothing new and we can remember how they did likewise against Fiji in the final pool game of the 1999 Rugby World Cup in Toulosse.
But instead of unnerving the players it confused referee Paddy O'Brien, who later apologized to Fiji players for his bad decision denying Fiji certain tries.
So a lesson learnt by our sevens players is to always expect such rackets when playing France. They do this in all sports including tennis.
A couple of years ago they brought their brass bands to the Davis Cup competition against Australia.
To their surprise Australian fans turned up with their own brass bands and it was as much as a battle on the tennis courts as there was of the battle of the bands in the stands.
In Fiji we have our own battle of Kawali bands and Bhajans who can create as much racket if the French decide to bring their brass bands here when we host an international sevens in the future.
They will be more effective in causing frustrations on the field because they can be as irritating in making noise and if my friend Kali Charan was still here in Koronivia I will vouch for his band to represent Fiji.
The whole point is to distract the opposition with unfamiliar noise and lyrics.
After the Dubai debacle Fiji fans are expecting a better showing from Dere's men this weekend and hopefully recapture our points lead in the HSBC Sevens Series.