Fijians adapting to the times as they find old-fashioned flair no longer enough

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am

For a country where sevens is almost a religion, it is no surprise Fiji coach Iliesa Tanivula wants more events in the World Series.

'The current series has been good. We like Fiji to go out there and expose our players at this level, but if we had more tournaments, we could use more players,' says Tanivula (pictured).

Sevens is the most popular sport in Fiji where it seems every village holds a tournament resulting in a huge pool of talented players. But their instinctive talents and natural flair, which once made Fiji synonymous with sevens rugby, does not win tournaments in the modern-day world.

'There are a lot of teams who have really pumped in a lot of cash into their development of sevens compared to 10 years ago,' says Tanivula. 'With the series running now for a number of years, a lot of teams are using video analysis and coming up with different ideas. We just have to keep up with the rest and try to improve on what we can do on the field and off it by getting our training, diet and other things right,' he said.

But Tanivula promised the old ways would not be forgotten or forsaken.

'Our flair has made us one of the finest sevens teams in the world. We just enjoy throwing the ball around and enjoying the big spaces on the field. When we take the field, our entire country is behind us and the nation stops to watch us play. But we have to perform to keep that interest and hopefully this is our year.'

Fiji's best performance this season has been in reaching the Cup final at the last leg in Las Vegas where they were beaten by a resurgent South Africa.

'We just have to be ruthless, cut out mistakes, play as a team and be a tight unit,' Tanivula said.

'Mistakes have cost us plenty this season. As a nation, sevens is important to us and we try our best every time. Hong Kong will be no different, although this is the tournament everyone wants to win.' Tanivula has resisted the temptation to bring on new players for Hong Kong. 'It is crucial we have experienced players who know what it is like to face the atmosphere in Hong Kong,' said Tanivula.

He has recalled four Hong Kong veterans, including French-based duo Setefano Cakau and Osea Kolinisau, for the bid to win an 11th Cup title.

Tanivula will be banking on the newcomers to lift the side to their first tournament title this season. Fiji are joint-third with Samoa on 64 points - 16 adrift of co-leaders England and New Zealand.