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The hunt continues after the Brisbane tournament

Waisale Koroiwasa
Saturday, January 27, 2018

AS day two of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series at the Sydney 7s unfolds, the biggest question for every Fijian rugby fan is will the Fiji Airways 7s team break the jinx after the dust settles at the Allianz Stadium tomorrow?

Will Gareth Baber put together a formidable combination that can stop Fiji's winless run and bring back smiles to the fans?

While many factors have contributed to the success of the Fiji 7s team over the years, it is the magical performances of the players which thrilled the crowds with their amazing skills and athletic prowess.

Brisbane and the Gold Coast proved to be happy hunting grounds for Fijian players in the past, but not Sydney.

Since the start of the Sydney 7s, Fiji came away disappointed in 2016 and 2017.

Will our fortunes change this time?

Time will tell.

Fast forward after a disappointing first leg outing at the Dubai and South Africa tournaments, Fiji sits on third spot of the World Rugby overall points table.

This newspaper takes us back to last year's Sydney 7s tournament. Series leader South Africa won as the Blitzbokke sealed victory over England in the final, 29-14, after they defeated Australia and New Zealand respectively in the semis.

Fiji was the other shock result early in the day when it missed out on a semi-final berth, losing in the quarters to New Zealand 24-21.

Fiji took fifth place with a win over the USA, 35-12.

As reported by this newspaper on February 4, 2017, the Fiji 7s team was the crowd favourite in Sydney, getting the biggest cheers as they ran on to Allianz Stadium.

But the talk of any 7s tournament in Australia was the 2000 Brisbane episode between Fiji and Australia.

The hosts looked set to win their first cup win in the series, but it was the 7s magician Waisale Serevi who spoiled the Australians party after weaving his way through the defence to score Fiji's try in the dying seconds.

Serevi's try against Australia in the final was voted the Try of the Year at the Fiji Rugby Awards in 2000, World Rugby reported.

In the tournament, we had Jope Tuikabe, Setareki Tawake, Marika Vunibaka, Fero Lasagavibau, Serevi, Vilimoni Delasau and Viliame Satala. Peni Veidreyaki was the coach and the late Taitusi Bunawa the trainer.

Before the Brisbane 7s, Fiji had won the Stellenbosch, Mar del Plata and Wellington 7s against NZ. Fiji was runner-up to the All Blacks 7s in Dubai, Punta del Este and in Suva.

A week before Fiji recorded one of its sweetest victories when Veidreyaki and his men won the first Wellington 7s tournament, beating a star-studded NZ side that featured the late Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Karl Te Nana and Eric Rush.

Those were the days when 7s rivals Fiji and NZ battled each other in almost every cup final.

A quick rewind to last year's Sydney 7s, New Zealand played England in the semi-final after edging Olympic champions Fiji 24-21 in the quarter-final.

The match was a repeat of the previous week's Wellington 7s quarter-final and the last tournament to be held at the venue before it was decided to be moved to Hamilton. New Zealand won 26-10.

Fiji took a 14-12 lead into half-time through converted tries from Sevuloni Mocenacagi and Kalione Nasoko, New Zealand matching them through Iopu Iopu and Regan Ware.

Sherwin Stowers kick-started the second spell with a well-taken try, but was yellow-carded two minutes later, allowing Fiji to regain the lead soon after when Nasoko crossed for his second.

But a try to Sione Molia gave the Kiwis the win.

Meanwhile, this season will include the 2017/2018 HSBC World Sevens Series, the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Australia on April 14-15, and the Rugby World Cup Sevens at San Francisco, US, on July 20-22.

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