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The Uprising sevens and sidestep skills

Kameli Rakoko
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ANOTHER bunch of exciting talents have forced their way into the national sevens squad selected from the Uprising Fiji International Sevens and the final 12 to Wellington will be decided this week.

Former reps Osea Kolinisau, Metuisela Talebula and even Iliesa Keresoni, who many expected to be part of the squad, were not included.

The national selectors have gone for new blood.

They have their own reasons and they are the best judges as they have been closely monitoring their performance for the past several weeks.

And true to tradition Fiji goes into Wellington with almost another new host of players except with some old names like Setefano Cakau, Ulaiasi Lawavou, Nemani Nagusa, Manueli Laqai, Samisoni Viriviri, Ilai Tinai and Joji Raqamate as the original squad members.

If all nine make the cut then expect five new faces in Wellington.

Some exciting performances were displayed by new players in the Uprising 7s and perhaps they hope to make the same instant impact as Waisea Nayacalevu had on the world scene, especially in Hong Kong.

Coach Alivereti Dere looks like he is still exposing as many talents as possible and the likes of Kolinisau, Talebula and others could be considered later for the Sevens Rugby World Cup.

Gordon Tietjens knows his main playmaker Tomasi Cama is ageing and he definitely is looking for a replacement and we wonder if he has found one while on the hunt in Fiji.

In the beginning of his coaching career Tietjens and New Zealand could not counter the Serevi factor.

Fiji had a playmaker who controlled the run of play and he was the pivot and the general. He is the guy who holds the fort, has wide vision and is the man expected to put all things together when everything is haywire.

That's why he searched for someone with the same talents and he discovered Amasio Raoma.

After Raoma, he came up with Tomasi Cama.

While we in Fiji have gone away from short, tough to lanky, thoroughbred playmakers, Tietjens is still using what Kiwis once called the Serevi factor.

Anyway, when they are on fire almost everyone in the Fiji team is a playmaker.

Last Saturday he may have wished he had found Talebula earlier as he has all the makings of a playmaker of the Raoma and Cama mould.

However, there are many Fijian players playing club rugby and in provincial teams in New Zealand who could fit the mould.

Cakau is in one of his finest forms and his performance in the semi-final against the New Zealand Emerging 7s was spectacular.

His sidestep and swerve at top speed is unmatched by any other Fijian winger. He had this swerving run at full speed in a tournament last year and national fifteens selectors should try him out in the full code at winger.

Another beautiful swerve was displayed by Samisoni Viriviri in the Uprising 7s and it is a proof that players are developing basic skills like swerving and sidestep.

I once discovered an old English rugby textbook in the RKS library many years ago and they were so detailed on where you put your foot and the approach and the way you held the ball.

Swerve is mostly used by wingers because the sideline is both their opponent and aid but the book says all fifteen players in the team should know how to swerve and sidestep.

If they are on the right then their opponent approaches from the left and to swerve past him the runner runs straight at his opponent and a few feet from him he extends his left leg towards the outside of the right leg of the tackler, putting all his weight on it as if he is going to cut inside.

But with the help of his hip he plants his right leg closer to the left and shifts his weight from left to right and once his weight is on his right leg, he swings his left leg over the right and heads for the tryline.

For the sidestep, the ball carrier runs straight at his opponent with ball held in both hands so the tackler is left guessing which direction the runner will go.

A few feet in front of him he goes through the same step and weight shifting.

If he plans to go left then he plants his right foot away from his opponent's left foot, putting all his weight onto it. In the next movement he draws his left foot closer to his right and switches his body weight to the left foot, before swinging his right foot over his left leg and heading for a new direction. Once the player moves away he holds the ball in one hand and frees his right hand in case he has to fend.

To keep the tackler flatfooted the important thing is to run straight at him and hold the ball in both hands.

Two great Fijian centres who sidestepped with ball in both hands were Noa Nadruku and Viliame Satala. That is why they were so successful while Filimoni Delasau began his rise to stardom most always with ball in his right hand whether he was going left or right. But his powerful legs did the rest, hitch-kicking or goose stepping. It was reported in the papers that he was helping Aisea Tuilevu with the surprise team of the tournament Yamacia.

Experts say that to acquire a new skill, to perfect it so that it becomes natural, you need 500 hours of practising.

Local touch rugby grounds every afternoon are the perfect place to begin practising and you could surprise yourself that it comes naturally during a competition.

Since the key is how fast you can shift weight from left to right doing the hula dance during aerobics is one way of making your body flexible.

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