This is our religion, say Fijians as they spread the gospel worldwide

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 March, 2010, 12:00am

Fiji might be a small nation, but it's a Sevens powerhouse. Testimony to this fact is that they have won the Hong Kong Sevens more times than any other nation - 12 times, including the World Cup Sevens held here in 1997 and 2005.

Fijian sevens players spread that rugby magic around the universe and travel far and wide with their sport. Legendary Waisale Serevi is now the coach of the Papua New Guinea team and appeared at the GFI HKFC Tens last week.

Fiji coach Iliesa Tanivula (pictured) has also taken the Fijian brand of sevens magic around the world. 'I played in Japan in 2005. I also played under Gordon Tietjens in New Zealand for a few years,' he said.

Although a fan of the rigorous New Zealand training schedule, Tanivula is quick to point out Fiji have an individual sevens style. 'Fijians play sevens in their own entertaining, unorthodox style. Sevens is beyond being our national sport, it's practically a religion in Fiji. Whenever sevens is played anywhere in the world, it is televised live in Fiji and the whole country watches it. We are always learning something new from this.

'Unlike some of the teams here, in Fiji sevens is played every weekend. Teams always head to overseas tournaments with lots of practice under their belts. We'll even throw around a coconut and start a game of sevens with it. Children start playing when they're very young.'

Tanivula has more theories on Fiji's success. 'Sevens is a physical game. It suits Fijians. You need strength and passion to succeed at it, and Fijian players have both. Whenever Fiji win, everyone celebrates. We've even had public holidays declared in Fiji when our team have won at the Hong Kong Sevens.'

Clearly, Tanivula was in a good mood at his second Hong Kong Sevens. 'The Hong Kong Sevens is sociable and serious at the same time. I was amazed this year and last that I ran into so many people I know from rugby in Fiji, New Zealand, Japan and around the world. Fiji might be a long way away from Hong Kong, but the rugby world is a small one.'