Boots and all

Hong Kong Sevens and Commonwealth Games fixture farce may just have won Fiji the World Series

Gareth Baber’s side make it three tournament wins in a row with victory at the Singapore Sevens and sit atop the table with two rounds remaining 

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 1:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 3:25pm

They lost in the gold medal match of the Commonwealth Games but a tournament that Ben Ryan says is decreasing in relevance may just have won Fiji the HSBC Sevens World Series.

There are still two legs to go in the 2017-18 series – London and Paris – but Fiji sit atop the standings for the first time this season after reigning supreme in the Singapore Sevens at the weekend.

They lead defending series champions South Africa by four points after winning the last three tournaments on the bounce – including a dominant victory in Hong Kong – and have all the momentum heading into the final swing.

While the scheduling of the Commonwealth Games in Australia meant many teams brought second-string outfits to Hong Kong, it did nothing to temper the atmosphere at the home of sevens and the fans still got to see what they love so much – a triumphant Fiji side parading the Cup on Sunday night.

And while that scheduling created headaches for organisers and teams alike throughout the world of sevens, if Fiji do win the World Series perhaps they should send some of the country’s finest kava to those in charge of choosing the dates for the Games.

They were the only one of the top commonwealth nations with the courage to bring their full team to Hong Kong and chase victory here and in Australia and the continuity that came with that shone through in Singapore.

While the likes of South Africa and New Zealand brought academy sides to Hong Kong with an eye to winning gold in the Games, Fiji pushed on with their best players and went within one game – a 14-0 loss to the All Blacks Sevens in the final on the Gold Coast – of winning all three tournaments in a jam-packed April.

Surely if you’d told the Fijians that in place of that gold medal, they could have victories in Hong Kong and Singapore, first place on the series table and all the momentum in the race for the finish line they would have jumped at the chance.

Especially after former coach Ryan told the Post in Hong Kong a few weeks ago that the Commonwealth Games is “no longer the standard it used to be. The commonwealth doesn’t exist any more – I’m speaking as an Englishman – and that whole competition is only going to reduce in the years to come”.

Last-gasp Fiji overcome Australia to snatch the Singapore Sevens

Whether Ryan is speaking as an Englishman or not, you have to think the Fijian team would share at least some of the sentiment of a man that had such an influence on the game there and led the country to Olympic gold.

Either way, the month of April has been kind to Fiji and – while the Blitzboks gambled on a two-pronged attack and have come up empty-handed – Gareth Baber’s side are sitting pretty.

It’s the first time Fiji have been at the top of the table during the Gareth Baber era and, after taking a while to rebuild after Rio, the departure of Ryan and a host of star players, they look to have regained the mojo that rendered them virtually untouchable in the lead-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

After last year’s snooze-fest, can a firing Fiji give Singapore Sevens the Hong Kong buzz it’s never had?

Baber must feel he has now finally stepped out of the considerable shadow of Ryan, something that can only help the team going forward as they no doubt keep one eye fixed on the build-up to Tokyo 2020.

While talk of the next Olympics may be premature, if Fiji do go on to win the World Series this year and maintain that level long enough to bag another gold medal in two years’ time, one could do worse than look back at the happenings of April 2018 as a starting point of yet another dominant era for one of the globe’s most defining sports teams.