No place for the faint-hearted
8 July, 2017, 12:00 am
National skipper Akapusi Qera has been through the rugby trenches long enough to know this afternoon’s clash against Tonga is not for the faint-hearted.
Today will separate the men from the boys.
There are members of the Flying Fijians who have never been hit by a Tongan playing for King and country.
There is a very different level of intensity altogether.
Today is when we must do a number of things right.
Very high on our to-do list will sit the need to strictly stick to our set game-plan.
That calls for a great deal of composure which will obviously demand discipline.
It will mean our players must be able to absorb an enormous amount of pressure and stay focused.
They must be able to contain the aggressive Tongans playing in front of their home crowd who can be very vocal, and remain focused.
That calls for a very special breed of men.
While Qera wants nothing less than a win from his men today against the Ikale Tahi, he knows it is much easier said than done.
Victory today at Teufaiva Park in Nuku’alofa is important for us in the lead up to the next Rugby World Cup.
In a moving speech during the jersey presentation yesterday in Tonga, Qera challenged his men to play their hearts out for the people of Fiji.
The players, he said, will shoulder the huge responsibility of wearing the famous white jumper with the coconut tree emblem that former rugby greats have shed tears and blood for.
The challenge, he said, was on members of the Flying Fijians to create a legacy of their own and to make the Fijian people happy.
“We are just caretakers of these jerseys so when you have the opportunity to wear them — give your very best,” he said.
“Don’t worry about the results, just worry about your performance.”
The key, obviously, will be in our team running on to the field with self-confidence and self-belief.
We need to beat Tonga or Samoa in this PNC round to secure the top spot in the Oceania region, and earn a RWC spot.
National coach John McKee said the focus was to win against Tonga.
He has placed a high level of importance on our side sticking to our game-plan.
Tonga, he believes, would target the Flying Fijians along the trenches.
“We need to play to our game plan and not be sucked in by the Tongan forwards,” McKee said.
“There will be a lot of emotions but emotions alone don’t win games.
“We need to stop Tonga from gaining the advantage line and to make use of our opportunities.”
Powerful words indeed! The onus though will be on our men to walk the talk this afternoon.
The Test is already attracting attention. The stage is set for a thriller Pacific Island style!
Go Fiji, go.