Serevi's heart still with Fiji

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 March, 2008, 12:00am

All-time great Waisale Serevi is back - as coach of Taiwan - but says his heart is still with Fiji, who will look to his replacement Jo Savou to lift the team to their first Hong Kong Sevens title since 1999.

'My heart is still with Fiji. I will be cheering for Fiji this weekend. I wish the boys good luck,' said Serevi soon after he arrived yesterday afternoon with the Taiwan squad.

Serevi, who has ruled supreme in Hong Kong since he first made his debut in 1989, resigned as coach of the Fiji sevens team at the end of last season's IRB Sevens in July. There were rumours the split was acrimonious, with Serevi being unhappy with the Fiji Rugby Union.

Yesterday, the maestro (pictured) refused to comment on the reasons behind his resignation, but said he hoped he would be back in charge of Fiji for the World Cup Sevens in Dubai next year. Serevi captained Fiji to World Cup glory in 1997 and 2005.

'That is my goal, to coach Fiji at next year's World Cup. But for the moment all my efforts are with Taiwan. I have been with them for the past month and will continue until the World Cup qualifiers for Asia in October,' revealed Serevi, who is widely regarded as the best player to grace the game.

This is bad news for Hong Kong, who are one of 12 teams that will be vying for the two places available to Asia at the qualifying tournament to be played on October 4-5 in Hong Kong.

A report in yesterday's Fiji Times stated that Serevi's successor as coach, Savou, would seek forgiveness from the legend in Hong Kong, apparently because Serevi had been excluded from the Fiji sevens camp earlier this year.

'I want to personally seek forgiveness from Serevi,' Savou was quoted as saying. Serevi refused to comment on the matter, preferring to dwell on why Fiji have had a bad run so far in the series. Savou, who had been assistant coach to Serevi since 2005, was appointed as head coach.

'I don't want to talk about that. My concern is Fiji and how they will play here this weekend. They have had a bad season so far because the team has mostly comprised young guys who have had no experience.

'But Jo [Savou] has brought back players like William [Ryder] and Marika [Vunibaka] and their experience will help. This side are capable of winning the tournament,' said Serevi, who turns 40 in May.

Last month, the Taiwan Rugby Union got in touch with Serevi and asked him to spearhead the country's World Cup campaign. He had no second thoughts of accepting the job.

'It is a huge challenge, a strange and new experience for me. I have been involved with Fiji, first as a player and then a coach. Although I played in other countries, I have never coached another country before,' Serevi said.

He will be up against his old foe Gordon Tietjens, with Taiwan meeting New Zealand first-up. Serevi expects it to be an interesting battle.

'For Taiwan, it is their first appearance in an IRB Sevens tournament this season and they will come up against a team who have won everything. It will be a big test for Taiwan,' said Serevi.

But one eye will be on his countrymen. 'If New Zealand can win the first four tournaments, then certainly Fiji can do it, too,' he said.