Hong Kong Sevens

Serevi fires up his veterans

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2007, 12:00am

'Although I'm happy that we won all our three pool games, we didn't play well. We made a few mistakes'

Fiji can be forgiven for thinking they have double vision this afternoon when Scotland front up in the Cup quarter-finals. In their final pool game yesterday, they met the Scots. By a quirk of the draw, the two teams meet again.

Fiji beat Scotland 26-0. Waisale Serevi, their player-coach who took a back seat yesterday, says Fiji can only improve. Dire words indeed as far as Scottish fans are concerned.

'It was a good win, but we can definitely get better,' Serevi said. 'Although we missed a couple of scoring opportunities, I was pleased that our defence held. This was an area I told the boys to work on after our opening two matches, and they did just that.'

Serevi was less than happy earlier in the day as he watched his normally fluent team stutter and struggle against Portugal before scraping to what was ultimately a flattering 28-7 victory. Even William Ryder, who scored 24 of the 54 points in both games, couldn't provide the spark to his team.

Portugal, still on a high from qualifying for the 15-a-side World Cup last week in Montevideo, played out of their skins as they held their fancied opponents to a 7-7 score-line at half-time. It was only midway through the second half, when Lepani Nabuliwaqa burst through for his second try, that Fiji heaved a sigh of relief.

'We didn't take care of the ball well enough against Portugal. Although I'm happy that we won all our three pool games, we didn't play well. We made a few mistakes,' said Serevi.

He is a master of the understatement. Portugal hounded a seemingly leaden-footed Fiji at every turn. But the islanders had more than enough nous to win comfortably at the end.

While other big rivals like England and New Zealand gave all their players a run, Serevi was content to let his tried and tested veterans carry the flag yesterday. He kept his secret weapon - Semisi Serevi Kubu - under wraps for the most part, bringing him on only in the dying seconds of the Scotland game.

He is big. He is powerful. And he is over here. Kubu is the latest in the production line of coconut tree-tall Fijian forwards. Perhaps Serevi is saving him so he can play a crucial role for the South Pacific islanders who have set their sights on dethroning Hong Kong Sevens champions England - provided the latter get past the Kiwis in the quarter-finals.

At 1.98 metres and weighing 120kg, Kubu is one of the biggest players to appear at the Hong Kong Sevens. He even dwarfs his captain and man-mountain Semisi Naevo - 1.97m, 98kg. The pair of them together could pose huge problems today.

'They are two big boys and obviously have the goods,' said wary Kiwi coach Gordon Tietjens as his team faced up to the prospect of meeting Kubu for the first time. 'Size is important in sevens. The biggest plus for Fiji is that in Kubu, they have cover for their big captain. If he [Naevo] gets injured, they can rely on another player who is even bigger.'

Jonah Lomu, 1.96m, weighed in at 120kg in his heyday and when he played in the hat-trick winning New Zealand teams of 1994-1996. Mesake Rasari, another barnstorming Fijian, was also big.

Kubu, whose genes must be of a similar strain, will be hoping to emulate his giant predecessors who have already left their mark in Hong Kong, and lift the Cup today. At 27, he is a late arrival on the international stage. Serevi, the legend, has possibly kept an ace up his sleeve.

'Kubu plays in Australia and only became available before the Hong Kong Sevens. He is a good player and has the skills. I brought him in as cover for my captain. But they may both play together,' Serevi revealed.

If that happens in the opening fixture it will be double-trouble for the Scots, who will really face a case of seeing double.

Serevi, who was playing his cards close to his chest, added: 'I think we will play better on Sunday. We have learned our lessons from our pool games.'

Ominous words indeed.




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