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Supporting our boys at Hamilton Sevens

Kameli Rakoko
Friday, February 02, 2018

NEW kicking techniques have crept into the sevens game and we could see more of that in Hamilton this weekend.

However, when sevens superstar Waisale Serevi ruled the sevens world no rugby team dared to do what the New Zealand Sevens team have lately adopted to be their new kick-off technique - the long kick downfield.

In the pool clash with the Kiwis in Sydney Waisea Nacuqu fumbled one and the other ended in a try and the Kiwis decided to use the short kick-off. Like Serevi Nacuqu is a deceptive runner.

In the 4th/5th play-off they succeeded with the long kick-off because Nacuqu was not there and they managed to pressure the Fijian side into mistakes in their own 22-metre area.

On the other hand USA coach Mike Friday has developed a new short kick-off technique that has to do with the timing and jumping skills of their players including winger Perry Baker

Fijian sevens rugby fans of Serevi's era had over the years enjoyed those moments when opposition teams kick the ball back to the sweeper expecting him to be pressured and make mistakes.

Then we also had the mercurial William Ryder who ran through the whole South African side to win during a game in the 2005 Commonwealth Games. Two great comeback wins of this nature came by in 1999/2000 season against New Zealand in the inaugural Wellington Sevens and against Australia in the Brisbane Sevens.

In Brisbane Fiji made the final after defeating South Africa in their semi-final; the final was against Australia, who were leading until the last minute of the match.

With less than a minute to go the Aussies kicked the ball downfield inside the 22-metre area hoping to gain another couple of crucial seconds before the hooter.

Playing last man down in defence the Gau playmaker weaved his magic.

Serevi broke several Australian tackles with his goose-steps and ducked under another and sprinted 80 metres to score a try and win the match for Fiji.

The try was described at the time by Australian rugby union writer Spiro Zavos as "the greatest individual try in sevens series history", and was voted try of the year at the 2000 Fiji Rugby Awards.

In 1999 the inaugural International Rugby Board Sevens series was held starting with the Dubai tournament.

Serevi missed this leg, but finished the year by leading Fiji to victory in the South Africa Sevens in Stellenbosch.

Serevi then returned for the leg in Mar Del Plata where he scored a try to lead Fiji to victory over New Zealand in the final.

He then led Fiji in their first sevens tournament in New Zealand, at Wellington. Fiji again defeated New Zealand in a tournament final, this time 24-14.

The great comeback victory in Wellington was a series of spectacular events. First big Jonah Lomu was replaced because, he failed to find his try-scoring form against the gallant Fijians who continued to tackle him to the ground.

Replacing him was another rugby star in Christian Cullen whom coach Gordon Tietjens thought could make a difference.

The first time he handled the ball was to be his last as he was hit from behind by a flying tackle from Fijian rover Viliame Satala.

The spilled ball was collected by Vilimone Delasau who sidestepped his way past the Kiwis for a great try. Fiji won in Wellington and Cullen was carried off the field in a stretcher. Satala was already nicknamed by the media as 'the stretcher' and he lived up to it.

Serevi was the tournament's top points scorer (84 points).

As Gareth Baber's boys regroup in Hamilton they will now be sure of what areas they have to improve on.

The highlight of pool play would be the battle with Australia, last week's Sydney Sevens champions.

Maintaining possession and avoiding contact by using the width of the field will give our speedsters room to create havoc.

However, they will be the best to judge as opposition coaches watch with hawks' eyes every move that Fiji make and work to counter them and it's cloak and dagger stuff all the way. Keeping the opposition guessing will be our strategy and we still have surprise packages in our lineup. One of those is Vatukarasa man Josua Vakurinabuli who scores every time he is expected to do so.

His winning try against the Kiwis in Sydney will go down as another of those comeback classics when Fiji meet arch rivals New Zealand.

Even though there will be constructive suggestions and some not so constructive, professionals like Baber use it as a sounding board and he should have a free hand in making his decisions.

There are many other ways that fans can show their support to the team and the first is in believing in them that they can rise to the occasion and scoop the Hamilton Sevens title.

A local preacher and friend said: "When they go into the huddle and recite their Bible verse of Philippian 4:13 let's huddle with them.

We know they can do it if they and we mean it, as the one they have put their trust in also says that nothing is impossible to him who believes."

Amen to that and Go Fiji Go!

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