7s thrust: Baber to step up Fijian campaign

Fiji Airways Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber. Picture: FT FILE/JONACANI LALAKOBAU

IT is that time of the year again when Fiji Airways Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber spends hours mulling over team selection, playing tactics, diet, team camp, players’ welfare and the oppositions in the lead-up to the coming 2018-2019 World Rugby Sevens Series.

After the shortfalls of the past season with some of Fiji’s seasoned 7s players, Baber is also faced with players’ exodus from his grasp.

That included Eroni ‘Sledgehammer’ Sau, who now plays club rugby in France.

Now the former Hong Kong coach rests his trust on senior players including one of the recent finds of Fiji 7s, Kalione Nasoko.

As the Fiji 7s team continues divisional preparations for players, Baber will now push for success to add thrust to Fiji’s preparation.

“I will continue to keep an eye on these players and put them under pressure,” said Baber.

He said Nasoko had proved himself in the past seasons, and would become handy when games became tougher in the coming series.

The ‘Yasawa Flyer’ is keen to impress the national coach, especially in his third year in the HSBC-sponsored series.

The Waya native who made his 7s debut in 2016 was one of the prominent players last season.

With the absence of Jasa Veremalua, who is expected to take up an overseas contract soon, Nasoko, Paula Dranisinukula and Josua Vakurinabuli are expected to spearhead Fiji’s campaign upfront.

Skipper Jerry Tuwai, Vatemo Ravouvou, Amenoni Nasilasila would hold the key in Fiji’s backline.

“This is a new season which comes with new challenges,” said Nasoko.

“There are many good players in camp and I am doing my best to keep my body in top shape and to retain my spot in the team. This demands hard work and dedication and I need to work hard to maintain my spot.”

Baber, who was at the Namamanuca 7s tournament in Malolo last week, said he had been working with Nasoko and the rest of the players in trying to improve players’ fitness.

“I was impressed with the level of competition in the islands which pushed the boys throughout the game.”

Baber has also roped in few new players in the national training squad to prepare for the new season.

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