Letters to the Editor: July 24

Toso boys! were the usual chants from these Fijians at the AT&T park in San Francisco during the Rugby World Cup 7s yesterday. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

Sea of blue and 7s action
No doubt that there will be many disappointed Fiji fans around the world and in Fiji, after we lost to New Zealand. The stadium was a sea of blue and that showed the support for the team. I don’t know the exact number of people who travelled to the US from Fiji for the games, but from the many messages and photos posted on Facebook I know there were many. I for one am disappointed in that we had a superb team with the backing of Radradra and Tuisova. Well what can we say, the better team won. I mixed my grog at 6am yesterday to watch the finals and drank it and watched the games to the end. To the Blue Wiggers, awesome support, especially Alan Rickets! To Baber and the boys, thank you. Allen Lockington, Kava Place, Waiyavi, Lautoka

Question time
New Zealand found a chink in Fiji’s defensive armour and exploited it twice to score two crucial tries in their 22-17 win. Obviously, the chink wasn’t nicked by the coach because in their dead rubber third-place match, South Africa also sailed untouched, through the same gaping hole to the tryline. Fiji just could not conjure that extraordinary attacking ability which had brought them memorable wins at the death in the past. Did they forget, or did they stop believing in what they are capable of? Instead, the Kiwis found their X-factor in two of their own Fijians, namely Ravouvou and Nareki who played superbly against their countrymen. Their third Fijian Rokolisoa was instrumental, putting the Kiwis clear of the English with a wonderful try in the final. Long story short, the Rugby World Cup Sevens is not coming home in 2018, and while today will be another day for the rugby fans, the brawns at ‘White House’ must be scratching their heads for what went wrong. In fact, they would be scratching all over, because this was supposed to be the strongest sevens team ever assembled, at least that’s what we were told. On dropping the sledgehammer (you know who), coach Baber was quick to say that the players selected were suited for such a tournament format and would adapt better to the conditions. The format by the way is new for most, if not all the teams. The players have done their share and more in the field; but usually the game changers are found outside the sideline, or far removed from the action analysing the play, asking the right questions and suggesting improvements. Were these, and other important elements left to just a single man to dictate? Samuela Railoa, Tailevu

Tough luck

Tough luck for our sevens gladiators in San Francisco. Like the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, we played well in the first two days but fell short at the last hurdle. I’m not sure if anyone would like to be in the coach’s shoes right now but with Fiji’s wealth of talent, choosing the right set of players to perform at their peak at the right time, and to fit in the right positions is the toughest job in the world. Sometimes it works in your favour and sometimes it doesn’t. Unfortunately for us, the tournament just didn’t go our way. For New Zealand and England, they did not really have any extraordinary players, they didn’t employ any big names to boost their campaign, but at the right time they adapted and executed to perfection. Players filled in positions they were comfortable and thrived in and we witnessed that in the semi-final when they toppled two formidable sides. Congratulations to the New Zealand men’s and women’s teams and a special mention to Joe Ravouvou and Akuila Rokolisoa who played a superb game for their adopted country. Well done. Sailosi Naewe, Naduru Rd, Nausori

Faithful warrior

I write further to my letter (FT 20/07) titled ‘Faithful warrior’ relevant to our Fiji 7s team to the world cup whereby our head coach Gareth Baber when picking his final 12 players, Eroni Sau, Josua Vakurinabuli, Apenisa Cakaubalavu and Waisea Nacuqu were dropped in favour of our overseas based professional rugby players. My point is our local players were all playing consistently and holding the fort throughout the world series but were winning tournaments together without those Fijian overseas based players who ply their trade in those big time professional rugby clubs where they are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign currency as compared with our local players who earn only a fraction of our Fijian dollar. These local boys all understood each other very well. They had the necessary firepower and the combination that can easily beat any team in whichever competition they played in. I plead with Baber to nurture and expose the local talents first and allow the contracted 15s overseas players to concentrate on their club commitments. Watch Baber pick up the dropped 7s reps again to continue the core of the team into the next tournaments now that we have lost the world cup and the overseas boys have departed. I believe FRU had contracted a cream of 24 best local players from which our 7s coach can develop and choose from to represent the country at any one time when it suites him, but it defeats the very purpose. Tukai Lagonilakeba, Namaka, Nadi

Sledgehammer factor

We end up licking our own wounds simply by laying down wrong but crucial decisions. Baber’s selection surprised many when Sau was left out from the final cut. He thought that the ‘Sledgehammer’ was not in good form. I think the same with our overseas players whom I assumed Sau was far better than them knowing that he was consistent throughout the World Rugby series. However, NZ used speed against us in which Tuisova and Mocenacagi lacked. If Sau was in our mix we would have matched them in that area. Another quality that our own ‘Sledgehammer’ possessed was the ability to shut the attacking line in the inside, blocking them of further linebreaks. That made the difference numerous times as we all know. Now all we can do is applaud the effort of the team and wait for another five years. Waisale Moce , Nadarivatu

Heartbreak and painful

When the Rainbow Nation was outmuscled by the blooming Red Roses from England, many of us celebrated knowing that the WRSS champion and the top ranked team was out. Little did we realise that the Fijians were on a similar path of destruction. Boasting big names and stars from Europe, Fiji faltered against a young and fit All Blacks team. We relied on experience. Baber changed a winning combination while the rugby brains in Cama, Laidlaw and the lion heart All Blacks exposed our weak defence to score four tries and boot Fiji out. I was impressed with the young guns in Molia, Collier, Ravouvou, Joass, Ware and Knewstabb while veterans Curry, Baker and Mikkelson held the fort. An inexperienced NZ team taught Fiji a bitter and painful rugby lesson to take home the cream. Fiji left it too late and played catch up rugby and unfortunately our big stars gave up the fight. After the early exit, Fiji’s hopes of a bronze medal win were extinguished by the most strategic team on the circuit. The physical flavour, set piece play (the cornerstone behind the Boks success), awareness in counter ruck and pace to spare gave Africa the upper hand. Similar to what fans saw against NZ, lack of concentration, inability to capitalise on opportunities, weak tackles and lost possession came back to haunt Fiji and demoralise the ‘blue ocean’ of supporters. NZ and Africa dominated set pieces, breakdowns and self-belief as the Fijians searched for answers on a dismal outing in the Sunshine State. At home the early morning atmosphere was bright as people marched the streets cheerfully but what followed was total desperation, heartbreak and pain as Fiji surrendered the Melrose Cup. Weeks of excitement and hopes came to an unfortunate end as the incredible and impressive All Blacks soaked the Sunshine City and walked away with their third Melrose Cup, the Player of the Final (Scott Curry) and the Player of the Tournament (Jo Ravouvou- an enormous unit and the most lethal player on the park). Now the All Blacks have the Women’s RWC 7s trophy, the Webb Ellis Cup and the Melrose Cup. Such a proud moment for a superb and crazy sporting nation! Welshman Gareth Baber and our 7s team, we lost the opportunity to win the Commonwealth 7s gold medal, the Melrose Cup and the WRSS. We lost the most important prizes that were at stake and the simple question is where to from now? NZ won only one tournament dating back to Cape Town but the clinical, outstanding and confident team has won the Commonwealth gold medal and Melrose Cup! I scratch my head in disappointment as I feel the pain of losing the RWC 7s and the Melrose Cup! Rajnesh Ishwar Lingam, Nadawa, Nasinu

Learning from mistakes
New Zealand made the mistake in 2016 by bringing in high profile Super Rugby players and as a result, they lost heavily in Rio. New Zealand learnt from their mistake, regrouped and won where it mattered most in 2018, the Commonwealth and at the World Cup. Fiji, on the other hand, fell into the same trap by bringing in high profile European stars and we lost where it mattered the most. The local folks who were doing it in the 2017/2018 7s series, in my view were good enough, but we thought past reputation would give us the edge. It is now evident, the 7s game and 15s are poles apart.
Let’s learn from the mistake committed in Paris and San Francisco. Let’s re-group and re-build, the Olympics is two years away and the Rugby World Cup will come back in four years. Thanks to the Fijian boys for their tireless effort in San Francisco, but all credit to New Zealand for creating history as the undisputed rugby champion of the world, both in 7s and 15s (men and women). Ilaitia Bose, Samabula, Suva

Farewell party
When is the farewell party for the rugby 7s men’s coach and the Fijiana coach? The quicker the better! Usaia Tagi, Delainavesi

Hard work
I wish to thank the boys and Baber for their hard work. You may have lost but you’re still our number one and nothing will change that. All teams prepared well and brought in their best players to play in the RWC. Baber chose the best but maybe it wasn’t God’s will for you to win. Our plans are different from God’s plans. We love you boys. Vane Mainaisogoliku, Labasa

Mighty NZ

Congratulations to the world champion mighty All Blacks 7s team. The Rugby World Cup has certainly “gone home” to hibernate beside the Webb Ellis Cup for the next four years. Kaila! Joka kece! Anthony Sahai, Suva

Sevens failure
Both national 7s coaches failed at Rugby World Cup 7s 2018 in San Francisco. Will heads roll too at FRU? Ronnie Chang, Nadi

WNUAT phrase
If players and coaches, when interviewed by the media, continually utter the WNUAT phrase, they should not be in a job. The media should stop reporting such a dumb phrase. WNUAT is “We never underestimate any team”. The phrase was reported in the media, uttered by a player in the 7s team this weekend, they sure underestimated NZ. We are all interested in what players/coaches have to say if it is informative, not dumb. Any player/coach saying WNUAT, and any media outlet reporting it should donate a sizeable sum to charity. Allan Loosley, Tavua

Losing titles
This year Fiji lost the 7s series, Commonwealth Games and yesterday we lost the Rugby World Cup 7s. Back to the drawing board? Narayan Reddy, Lautoka

Gamble lesson
Baber can only learn from the Sledgehammer gamble. It’s only upward from here. Rick Eyre, Lautoka

No easy job
I lament the untimely retirement of Hank Arts, the publisher of The Fiji Times (FT 21/07). He was a beacon of hope for this country for his ‘no compromise’ attitude. Most of his energy and time was taken by the recent trial, but he took it like a man on the chin for the group. Certainly it wasn’t an easy job. Happy retirement ‘old chap’. Amenatave Yaconisau, Palm Drive, Delainavesi

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