Coach Tanivula takes cautious approach despite Fiji's pedigree

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 March, 2010, 12:00am

His team may have arrived as reigning champions, but Fiji coach Iliesa Tanivula is taking the Sevens one step at a time.

While the popular Pacific Islanders won against South Africa in dramatic fashion last year, Tanivula insists he is looking no further than the next game as the Fijians aim to add to their impressive record.

'I don't believe we are here to defend the title,' said Tanivula. 'Like the other teams, we are here to play our pool games and came here [yesterday] to try to win the first one and we've done that. Hopefully we can win the next two games [today] and can progress to the finals.'

The launch of their title defence could hardly have been less stressful for Fiji than their comfortable 82-7 demolition of Thailand in the opening pool C match.

Scoring 12 tries in all, Fiji signalled their intent that - despite Tanivula's one-game-at-a-time proclamation - the champions will be a serious threat once again.

With their pace, size, guile and experience, the Fijians outgunned a Thailand side that, while gallant in their efforts, were ultimately well out of their depth.

Setefano Cakau touched down for three of his side's tries and was his team's top scorer with 15 points, while Waisale Beci and Niumaia Rokobuli claimed two tries and a conversion each to rack up 12 points for the 12-time champions.

'We started well, but with the opposition we didn't know what we were going to come up against, so credit to the guys,' said Tanivula. 'We needed the points, we got them and it was a good way to start.

'With due respect to Thailand, there wasn't much to do on defence for us and we scored some soft tries, but the guys really put the effort in. We talked about it before the game and I think we did that.'

The win over the Thais has provided Fiji with the perfect platform upon which to go into their remaining pool C matches, against Portugal and the US, before what they hope will be another concerted challenge for yet another Sevens crown.

'We performed well and we just have to build on that,' said Tanivula. '[Now] we will have to build up; we've got Portugal who won't be easy because they've been around the series for a while so we've just got to step it up.'

The Fijians sit in third place on the IRB Sevens Series standings after disappointing performances in Las Vegas and Adelaide.

On both occasions Tanivula's team have lost to Australia in the quarter-finals, but the coach is confident his players have learnt the lessons from the last two tournaments.

'Credit to the guys they have looked at it and tried to come back from it,' he said.

'We want to win every game and hopefully we can step it up against different opposition. [Our first game] was a team effort: we just went out and did what we planned to do and hopefully we'll get better.'