Serevi says he's innocent of HK Sevens allegations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 April, 2008, 12:00am
 

Ex-coach insists claims he sabotaged Fiji squad are nonsense

Former captain and coach Waisale Serevi has strongly rejected accusations he sabotaged Fiji's campaign at the Hong Kong Sevens last weekend.

The legendary Serevi was allegedly blamed for using his powerful influence to pressure the Fijians into playing badly against New Zealand in the Cup semi-finals. New Zealand thrashed Fiji 34-0.

'At no time did I ever sabotage or influence any player,' Serevi told the Fiji Times. 'I don't have anything against [coach] Jo Savou. I don't have a bad heart and besides what would I get out if it.'

Last Sunday, Serevi disclosed that he would love to be back in the scheme of things with Fiji as a player-coach for next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai. He had coached Fiji but parted ways with the Fiji Rugby Union last July. Fiji have failed to win the past five IRB Sevens tournament under new coach Savou.

Savou charged that some of his best players were manipulated by a 'former' player not to play their best against New Zealand. The story broke on the website FijiVillage.com.

'I can't say or name anyone because I didn't see it happening,' Savou was quoted as saying in the Fijian media. Savou stressed that there was no way Fiji could have fared so badly and lost 34-0 to New Zealand, considering the calibre of players he had.

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens, who is in Australia for the Adelaide Sevens, said he was shocked by the claims. 'It's news to me. I was very surprised and disappointed,' Tietjens told the New Zealand Herald. 'I think it takes some shine off my boys, they played well.

'Fiji brought out their best team and if you look at the photographs after the game, they were disappointed.'

Hong Kong Rugby Football Union boss Trevor Gregory, said he was aware of claims that Fiji threw the match, but said it was an internal matter for the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) to handle.

'There are a lot of personality issues within Fiji rugby. We've seen reports suggesting that Serevi was involved, but this is not our issue,' Gregory said.

Reports surfaced in Fiji that sevens wizard Serevi - who was coaching Taiwan - had lured a few key players to his room in the players' hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and held a closed door meeting.

Serevi admitted that he had met players at the hotel.

He said he had also met Fiji skipper Marika Vunibaka - who had played under him at the 2005 World Cup in Hong Kong - who had brought some items for him.

'I wished him well before the tournament. He brought in a bag from my wife,' Serevi said.

FRU chief executive Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua revealed that he had not received any official report from the team management.

'When the team returns, we will hold meetings with the management and then go further if there is any element of proof,' he said.

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