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Fiji Time: 9:13 PM on Sunday 20 April

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Blessing in disguise

Kameli Rakoko
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

THE high flying Fijian Digicel Sevens team came crashing back to earth at Port Elizabeth after the pressure of their new found fame was just too much to handle.

It is a learning curve for most of the players playing their first HSBC Sevens series leg and facing a physical Samoa and the thought of having to face New Zealand again got ahead of them and they lost the plot.

It is also a new experience for coach Ben Ryan to understand the Fijian mentality and since we have six more tournaments, the loss was definitely a blessing in disguise.

The Fijians went into the Samoan game with their minds probably focused on New Zealand in the semi-finals and were just not there at all.

The lesson taught is to take one game at a time and not physically here in one game while your mind is somewhere else.

Against any Samoan team we need all the attention we can give them.

They play hard rugby and the only counter is to hit back hard and keep them on their toes. Once you give them space they will run rings around you as they did at Port Elizabeth.

However, not to take anything away from the Samoans they were definitely a powerful side and whatever the Kiwis had in store for Fiji they took it on our behalf and almost got away with it.

Skipper Epeli Levasa, playmaker Alatasi Tupo and swift powerful runners Lio Lolo and So'oialo played beautiful rugby and they make the core of this powerful Samoan team.

The two Pacific Island teams always had the measure of South Africa and it was probably fitting to let South Africa beat New Zealand in the final to celebrate the achievements of the late Nelson Mandela and bring some smiles to the Africans after their sad loss.

Fiji's Samisoni Viriviri, Osea Kolinisau, Pio Tuwai, Donasio Ratubuli and schoolteacher hooker Benito Masilevu were the try-scoring machines against Kenya and France while Kadavu man Emosi Mulevoro had developed his halfback game to perfection.

Only one year ago in Japan he was too scared to put the ball into the scrum in his first assignment in the position in place of an injured Joji Raqamate and in the end he had the ball under the opposition hooker's feet.

He has made a complete turnaround and is almost a veteran. His speed did not come overnight and did the hard yards in the off-season and has been the Army team outstanding player this year in sevens.

Let us then say that the spirit of the moment stopped Fiji from advancing.

Because this team has all the ingredients of success written all over them

They are young, fit, eager to learn and they have a wonderful schoolteacher as coach.

He is not a former schoolteacher because he still teaches, only this time its rugby. And teachers teach right into their deathbed, even to the grave because they leave behind their legacy for their students to carry on.

Kenya was at the end of the Fijian backlash in the Plate semi-final and playing with six players for nine minutes they still ran away with 52-5 win — what a performance.

Fiji beat France in the Plate final and is in third place just 10 points away from leaders New Zealand and eight away from South Africa.

No team has ever won both tournaments in the same leg in the HSBC Series and the challenge is for Ben Ryan's Fiji team to take Las Vegas in January and storm Wellington in February.

So forget Port Elizabeth, get down to Nadi and greet and congratulate our boys tomorrow to say thanks for the Plate win and last week's Dubai razzle dazzle.

We will definitely see more of them next year.