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Work cut out for 7s side

Fred Wesley
Monday, January 29, 2018

FIJIAN 7s rugby took a massive beating at the weekend. We were taught a lesson in the kick-offs, ball retention and patience when we hit a brick wall against the USA in the quarter-finals of the Sydney 7s yesterday.

When it seemed we had rubbed off the cobwebs to enter the fifth place final against New Zealand last night, the Kiwis showed us how disorganised our defence was.

The strong shape we held in the pool rounds disappeared against the US and New Zealand.

In the face of this dismal effort, Fijian fans held firm to their support for our team.

You could see the emotions on their faces. You could see the passion they had for our team.

You could see the pride with which they carried our national flag and wore our colours.

The Blue Wiggers were out in force.

There can be no doubt about the support base for our national sevens team.

Fijian fans can be very demanding. They are patriotic and have very high expectations of our team.

Support for our team stretches past every imaginary demarcation in the country, past religion, ethnicity and gender.

There can be no doubt about the impact the national 7s team has on unity in our nation.

This is why it certainly was very difficult for many fans to accept our losses.

This is why attention will be on national coach Gareth Baber to address our weaknesses in the lead-up to the next round of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Hamilton in New Zealand this weekend.

The series is no place for the faint-hearted.

Only the best must represent our nation and carry the hopes and aspirations of thousands of Fijian fans around the globe.

There is a proud tradition and history to live up to.

The US nullified our effectiveness by denying us possession. They kept the pressure on our defence, retained possession, dominated the restarts and were very patient across the field.

We defeated New Zealand in the pool rounds, but the damage was done when the Kiwis rode on the back of the US lesson in the fifth place final last night.

Baber now has a massive challenge before him leading up to Hamilton.

He must find the controlled aggression we need to challenge the breakdowns and kick-offs, effective attacking options and a defensive shape that is better than the dismal show against the Kiwis in the fifth place final.

Otherwise we will be staring at a blank wall in a very important year that has the Commonwealth Games 7s and Sevens World Cup.

One thing is certain though this weekend. Fijian fans will be out in force. Again, they will show up with very high expectations.

We do have the calibre of players who can turn heads at the highest level of the game.

Go Fiji, go.

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