A moment to celebrate
5 February, 2018, 12:00 am
Firecrackers lit up the night sky and resounded across parts of the Capital City yesterday as Fiji anchored a dismal start to our 2017/18 World Rugby Sevens Circuit with victory last night in New Zealand.
Celebration started very early for hundreds of fans who rubbed their hands in glee in the wake of our victory in the Cup quarter-finals over Samoa in Hamilton.
It wasn’t an easy match. In fact when we scraped through the semi-final against New Zealand, the writing was on the wall.
There was hope. Some fans would have kept their emotions in check. Hundreds though could not contain their joy at the prospect of an appearance in the Cup final.
Then it happened.
The national anthem sounded and there was so much pride and a great sense of patriotism.
You could see it in the faces of the fans in Hamilton. You probably would have felt in neighbourhoods around the country.
The embarrassment of Sydney was cast aside.
Fijian fans have so much pride. Sevens rugby is that special. It cuts through every imaginary demarcation line.
There can be no doubts about the positive impact it actually has on our tiny nation every time we do reach the Cup final of a leg of the series.
This is one time when every Fijian, regardless of their status in society, their ethnicity, gender and religious and political leaning are united to cheer on our side.
Our appearance in the final united a nation.
It brought together hundreds of screaming Fijian fans at the FMG Stadium.
The sea of blue and white was evident. You could pick out the massive support for the national side.
Sydney, the week prior to Hamilton inched out a negative response.
The wave of anger and frustration had rolled into last week following our losses to the US and New Zealand in the play-off for fifth position in Australia.
Yesterday though was a complete contrast to the embarrassing show in Sydney.
Yesterday, we effectively contested the breakdowns, we were aggressive going into the rucks, and our defensive shape held up well in the quarters right through to the final.
We contested the kickoffs, supported the ball runner, exuded confidence on attack and ran beautiful lines.
When the need arose, our big men headed straight into the trenches, carving up yards and condensing the opposition defence.
It was a very different script to the one that we followed in Sydney.
You probably wouldn’t have been able to help it but marvel at the intensity, enthusiasm, commitment, aggression and confidence in the team in the semi-final and final.
You could sense a very different level of attention to detail. Passes were sticking to outstretched arms, there was great confidence going into the tackle to keep possession alive. Players were actually looking back, staying on their feet, and picking out receivers.
Apart from the glaring two send-offs by one of our forwards for intentional knock-ons with the opposition on attack, the team actually played well above expectations.
To come from behind to snatch a 24-17 win over the defending champions South Africa is no easy feat.
Baber thanked the team for the victory. He dedicated the win to fans across the globe and to God.
We should all acknowledge the team for this great victory.
Critics can probably also take consolation in the notion that they would have positively contributed to this victory by forcing attention to detail in our preparation following the debacle of Sydney.
It is now time to take stock of where we are now, relook at our game and prepare for the next leg of the series.
Go Fiji, go.