Hunt for gold medal
14 April, 2018, 12:00 am
AFTER the sensational four years in-a-row win in Hong Kong Fijian sports is continuing its upward journey of achieving victories that have been unprecedented in history.
In Hong Kong it was a case of the big sides like New Zealand, England and South Africa sending their boys to do men’s job and the Fijians taught everyone a rugby lesson.
Even the young South Africans thought they had the measure of Fiji in the semi-final, but the Fijians were making fifty-fifty passes in the first half missing three definite tries which would have completely annihilated the enthusiastic Blitzbokke.
The Fijians showed better composure in the second half in that semi-final winning 26-24 and then outplayed Kenya in the final 24-12 to score a rare back-to-back win to follow their win in Vancouver.
However, history of Fijian rugby sevens performance has proven that it is almost impossible to achieve back to back wins in one leg, which is within seven days but times are changing and it is all in the mind.
Gareth Baber’s men have put themselves into a most challenging situation by using the same team in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Hong Kong included and the Commonwealth Games this weekend with Semi Kunatani, Samisoni Viriviri and Eyes Katonibau injecting the needed experience.
The performance at Hong Kong was clinical and in every tournament so far Baber is thriving under the experience of his supporting coaches and trainers.
We definitely have men in his coaching team who are among the best in the business and in Hong Kong assistant coach Saiasi Fuli was also there to tie up the loose ends and the same coaching expertise should ensure we definitely win in Gold Coast. Fuli, was in the losing Fiji team in Manchester in 2002 and he has some memories to bury after having being sent off with Jope Tuikabe in the final.
Fiji has improved tremendously in discipline and the two yellow cards given to Kenya in the final is proof of our good discipline.
But opposition coaches reading this may be influenced, but we should say it all the same, that the only way to upset this team is to make the Fijians frustrated by keeping the ball away from them for long periods of time, bad refereeing or resorting to foul tactics to make them angry.
They have the fitness to take on the best in the business. They have improved defence, have the out-and-out speedsters and their counter rucking with strength all round.
Baber and his coaching team are on the ball by assessing each situation correctly while the game is in progress and making the necessary changes, which has in most situations become the winning stroke.
Communication off the field and in the field with Katonibau’s presence has further lifted our performance.
So far Fiji’s Queen of Hearts Eileen Cikamatana has laid down the gauntlet and inspired everyone by winning a gold medal in weight-lifting and challenging our sevens men to do likewise. According to weight-lifting mentor Paul Coffa the young Levuka lass will win the next gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Cikamatana in 2017 became the queen of hearts and has proven herself in the weight she has already lifted breaking and setting new records in world youth meets, Oceania, Commonwealth and Pacific Mini Games meet setting two new Commonwealth records and now a Gold Coast Games gold medal.
Boxer Winston Hill has shown sensational progress and is a likely gold medalist. Compared with his two weeks of preparation for the 2016 Olympics Hill has prepared better for the Commonwealth Games and it should be no surprise if he wins gold.
Netball on the other hand have continued their downward spiral getting thrashed by Jamaica, Barbados, Australia, South Africa and Ireland in every game and ever since the Aussie coach took over she has always had one complain and that is poor fitness. The sending off of a player against Barbados for ill-discipline may just be the tip of the iceberg as far as attitude, mental and spiritual preparation go.
Team trainers need to review their program to keep those Fijian Pearls hanging in the air, like butterflies much longer.
You don’t have to be a fitness guru to see that our girls did not match the fitness and to use a boxing term, were beaten to the punch.
However, our sevens rugby experts could teach them a lesson or two in fitness and discipline the champion’s way.
On a lighter side a local has finally pinpointed the reasons he thinks our former kinsmen, the South Africans, are so fast in sevens rugby, netball and athletics over Fijians.
“It’s hereditary survival instinct ,” he says. “We have lost ours.”
“While we all developed speed to survive against enemies in warring days, we have slowed down because have lived in peaceful days and drink more kava.
“While the only thing that can make us run is being chased by a neighbour’s dog, the South Africans have this daily threat of being chased by a hungry lion, tiger and every vicious predator that hunt food on the ground up the tree and into the water.”
It’s food for thought. Go Fiji go!