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7s desperate

Opinions / Analysis

IS it worth the risk now to look offshore for players to beef up our squad for the Tokyo Olympics next month?

I do not think so and it seems our 7s experts are hitting the panic button in our quest to defend the gold medal.

Despite the logistical nightmare which would take us to secure our players in Europe considering the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world, we seem to be the only one dared to make it happen.

This is a sign of desperation and unfortunately mirrored on the development work carried out in the past five years since we won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

We seem to belittle the effort and abilities of our local 7s reps time again.

We do not give the credit they deserved, and it is time we called a spade a spade. We should stick with our home-grown product who have conquered the world in global tournaments instead of flying in our players offshore playing 15s throughout when a four- yearly event pops up.

Luckily there has been a rising tide against the decision to include three overseas based players in the Fijian 7s team.

Since the news broke a week ago, about the inclusion of Semi Radradra, Aminiasi Tuimaba and Vilimoni Botitu, there have been a steady stream of naysayers, including a former 7s coach and a star national 7s player of the 90s, who pleaded for anonymity.

They say while the three players are amazing athletes, their transition to the game in a short spell could be their biggest drawback.

But head coach Gareth Baber feels the players would fit well in his system.

“I’m trying to bring Botitu and Tuimaba over as soon as possible. It was a huge undertaking with all the support everyone is giving us.”

But with the games starting next week, it is unlikely Tuimaba, Botitu and Radradra would be available.

Baber admitted being in direct communication with them and the club, added he had been monitoring them over many months and believed in their abilities and what they would bring to the sport.

But he is against time to get them in peak fitness, while recognizing that Tuimaba and Botitu have played in his system, they have been away from the sevens game for over a year.

Baber’s worry comes down to adaptation, gelling in and finding that rhythm in the players, given the Olympic Games spectacle gets underway in about a month.

And it is for this very reason he wanted Radradra to join the team in Australia, while the Bristol Bears sensation has been in top form and playing his best rugby, his sevens tenure ended in disappointment during the 2018 Rugby Sevens World Cup in the United States.

Five years ago, Baber opted for Radradra and Tuisova and dropped seasoned reps Waisea Nacuqu and Eroni Sau. We all know how we fared at AT & T Park at San Francisco.

But Baber has always held Radradra as an astute athlete, saying: ‘He’s an exceptional world class player, a game breaker who knows the sport well.’

Yet, the former Fijian men’s 7s coach and player were quick point out on the failures of Radradra and the team during the Rugby Sevens World Cup, the tilt of which they say serves a painful reminder on the performances of the overseas based players, their lack of fitness and conditioning.

The 22-17 loss to New Zealand in the semifinal

“Some hard decisions need to be made soon, no one player deserves selection on name and fame.

“Players need to earn their place based on hard-work, ability and sacrifices made”, said the two.”

And with all the sacrifices made this far by the 18-member team now in Australia, they deserved to get the Olympic ticket.

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