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Fiji needs to 'Just Do It' in Japan

Opinions / Analysis

THE PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens tournament in Townsville, north of Queensland, Australia is the place for the Fijian men’s 7s players to impress

They need to play as a team, be the best and get noticed.

The June 25-27 competition is Baber’s best draw card, his first international competition in 16 months, where he would get to gauge the strengths and the weakness of the players, the necessary cog before he takes his final decision on the 13 players who would go on to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics.

It goes without saying that Baber’s team did not face training highs and lows, amid the Covid-19, lockdown and impending restrictions, there were frustrating times, but the players remained steadfast in their preparations for Olympic Games.

And while Baber’s mainstays are familiar with the level of competition and the expectations, they along with debutants need to show up in their first overseas tournament in as many months.

With New Zealand and Australia, in good stead following their Trans-Tasman Sevens tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, last month, Baber’s men have their work cut out for them.

New Zealand’s 6-0, series demolition of Australia was all business-like, focused, for challenges in the buildup to the Olympics as head coach Clark Laidlaw’s team has all eyes set on the gold medal.

For Fiji and New Zealand have always made for an exciting matchup, the PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens tournament would spark the amber flakes of the old rivalry.

The Australians, who failed miserably during the Trans-Tasman tournament would give their all, trying to sponge in the best out the sports the two biggest foes and yet fierce competitors of the sport.

And with Oceania Barbarians in the mix there would not be any dull sevens rugby, one that would certainly extract the best out of Baber’s men.

It is Fiji’s hit-out against New Zealand that would draw South Africa and England’s attention, who follow the Fijians and its quest for the Olympic gold defense.

South Africa’s Neil Powell and England’s coach Simon Amor have made no secret about it.

Neil’s team is in Stellenbosch, a town in the heart of the Cape vineyards, their training facility, where his players go through strenuous conditioning and skills training sessions.

“The World Series Sevens came to an abrupt halt in March 2020 due to the pandemic, immediately after a tournament in Canada”, he told AFP.

“It's been a challenging time but it’s probably the same for New Zealand, Fiji, everybody who's in sevens”.

South Africa won a bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

"The Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world," said Powell. "We got a medal last time, but it was not the color we wanted”.

Amor’s team got obliterated 47-3 by the Fijians in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, said he is looking at Olympic redemption in Tokyo, Japan.

“Gold medal it is, Fijians will be up for it again, so are we”.

With all eyes on Fiji men’s 7s team ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in Japan, Baber’s team is in the spotlight to do well in the PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens.

For the players, it comes down to strength of will, tenacity, and sacrifices.

And with Nike as the new sponsor, the team needs to 'Just Do It'.

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