No guts, no glory

Flying Fijians halfback Frank Lomani on the attack against Scotland. Picture: SUPPLIED

AFTER one loss and one win on the northern hemisphere summer rugby tour, John McKee’s Fiji Airways Flying Fijians are gearing up for a grand finale against France tomorrow morning at 9.05am.

The odds are stacked against Fiji in terms of preparation and quality time together as a team but our hopes of a good performance and even a win are always high as we know we have this unique fighting spirit and it only takes a spark to turn an ordinary situation into an extraordinary one.

The difference in commitment of a team from another we sometimes call it guts.

The Fijian boys have proven to hold their own in the set pieces yet against Scotland Fiji’s defences were torn into shreds and we could not hold the ball long enough to string phases together.

The game against Uruguay gave the players a lot of room to move around but the only try scored against us was from an individual effort from the base of the scrum.

In the Tri-Nation Samoa and Tonga found many gaps around scrums, mauls and rucks where they scored easy tries from and so did Scotland and Uruguay.

Definitely the French, Welsh, Australian coaches will note the weakness and try and exploit it.

Another aspect of the game we have struggled with since rugby began is countering the rolling and driving mauls.

A prominent Kiwi forward and coach was overheard by this reporter in the eighties telling his Auckland side in a training session that “Fiji have no counter for rolling mauls”.

He realised he was being overheard by the reporter who was using a standard lens and in a diplomatic way politely asked if he could use a longer lens when taking pictures.

Against Scotland, Fiji forwards failed to contain the mauls near the try line and this not only led to a number of tries but also the yellow cards against Tevita Cavubati and Leone Nakarawa.

For a number of years we were able to counter the mauls on the international scene as Fijian coaches found out that driving the mauls across to the sideline neutralised it.

Then the rules changed again and entering from the side of a maul became an infringement and we were back to square one.

Unless Fijian rugby thinkers and coaches quickly find a way for our players to use effectively it will be an area targeted by merciless opposition.

The French battled Argentina hard in the forwards last Sunday and they had try-scoring machines all over the paddock They have some incisive runners in the backline and fast men on the wing and are only dangerous when they have the ball.

It is crucial that our boys play their best rugby to set the pace for RWC preparations for September in Tokyo and they need our total support and inspiration.

They still play on YouTube the “three crazy minutes of Fijian rugby” when Fiji, down with fourteen men, scored two converted tries against South Africa in the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals and levelling the score 20-20 in the final quarter.

On Fiji’s day we know they can rise to the occasion and beat any team in the world. Perhaps the sensational performance of a little lass from Nadroga/Navosa’s under-13, 4×400 relay team in last weekend’s 2018 FMF Chow Games can inspire Fiji’s big men of the limitless potential of the human spirit when it is pushed far enough.

Adi Mili Bosevakaturaga was the anchor runner for her team and received her baton after two runners had whisked past into the final lap of the race and everyone was convinced either of them would win silver and the other gold.

The two teams had been battling each other from the other early runners.

Lautoka anchor was the favourite and she had the athletic build and long powerful legs of a middle distance runner and so was the Suva runner.

Bosevakaturaga was half the Lautoka girl’s size and she must have measured her up and down while waiting but something inside told her that she could do the impossible.

When the Nadroga/Navosa girl took her baton the leading runners were already striding away at the bend in the high jump area.

At the 200 metres mark a roar went up as Bosevakaturaga had overtaken the Suva runner slipping into second place.

The Lautoka girl sensed what was happening and pressed on the accelerator, her long strides eating up the synthetic track metres.

Within 30 metres from the tape Bosevakaturaga changed the baton from left to right to avoid the swinging arms of the Lautoka runner as she eased alongside matching her pace for pace, neck and neck.

Fifteen metres from the end Bosevakaturaga powered past and three metres away she punched the air with her baton on the right hand acknowledging the roar of the crowd and melted the hearts of hefty men and women who cried openly with tears of admiration of such unique feat.

She crossed the finish line, the deafening roar still filled the air as she was hugged by tearful teammates.

On her Nadroga/Navosa colours and team banner had these words of inspiration in the Navosa dialect, “ …..e rewa ga mo mate.”

Literally, it means you will only die trying to beat me. It also means I will give my all to achieve my goal and may even die trying…

No coffins are necessary in France this weekend but if the Flying Fijians have the same belief in their ability and little Bosevakaturaga’s guts in the face of impossible odds, they can tell the French to go jump from the Eiffel Tower, as this game is ours.

Go Fiji go!

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