Hong Kong Sevens

‘Fiji expects us to win both’: Hong Kong Sevens, Commonwealth Games equally important for reigning champions

World Series powerhouses land in the territory with a squad built to win here and on Australia’s Gold Coast

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 March, 2018, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 March, 2018, 11:23pm

The Commonwealth Games loom large over next weekend’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens but the “prestige” of winning at the home of sevens is all that matters to Fiji right now.

While some teams are prioritising the Commonwealth Games over Hong Kong – series leaders South Africa are bringing an academy side to the territory – Fiji are hell bent on winning both.

“I want to win both and I know the Fijian public expects us to win both,” Fiji coach Gareth Baber said.

“Both are attainable for us. Obviously there is a lot of fuss in Fiji and a lot made of the fourth time we can potentially win Hong Kong on the trot. Hong Kong is a stand-alone tournament, there is a prestige to winning it and it stands big in Fijian minds in terms of accomplishments.”

While Baber was for a time considering separate squads for Hong Kong and the following weekend’s Games on the Gold Coast in Australia, he has opted for an extended squad capable of bringing home two trophies.

“I have decided that I will potentially go with very similar squads for the both. Three or four changes are going to be made. We see both Hong Kong and the Commonwealth Games as equally important for Fiji’s standing,” he said.

“We have had plans in place to develop as many players that could potentially lead to mixed squads playing but ultimately I have gone with the 16 players that I feel could do the job for us.

“We know it’s a tough ask but we have trained for it and we know what we have to do, the two tournaments we have won this year have been the second tournament [of a swing].”

Fiji took out the last World Series leg in Vancouver in early March and sit second behind the South Africans after two wins and a third in the last three legs, with Baber putting his side’s spike in form down to a greater familiarity among his players.

“There’s been transitions all over the place and it takes a while for that to settle down, especially under the pressure of the World Series,” he said.

“Not least with Osea [Kolinisau] leaving at the end of the season and things starting afresh with Jerry [Tuwai] as captain. There have been transitions all over the place.

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“I think we are gaining experience and they are coming together more as a team already and that has been a big learning for them.”

With New Zealand and Australia following the lead of South Africa in naming second-string teams, Baber is expecting a far more open Sevens than usual but is certainly not getting ahead of himself.

“I am sure teams like America and Argentina will come fully stacked in terms of the personnel that have been playing in the World Series for them this year,” he said.

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Fiji trained with Paul John’s Hong Kong side at the Sports Institute on Saturday morning, tuning up with a solid hit-out against the hosts.

John will finalise his line-up for the World Series qualifier on Monday: “It’s good to play against Fiji, they are one of the best sides in the world and it gives our boys a chance to practice what we have been training.”