The Fiji men’s sevens team will attempt to create history in Sydney this weekend and win World Series tournaments on consecutive weekends.
The Olympic champions defended their New Zealand Sevens title last weekend, thrashing the USA 38-0 in the final to replace the Americans atop the overall standings.
Fiji have won back to back World Series tournaments in Cape Town and Hamilton and won four in a row during the second half of last season.
But in 20 years of competing on the global circuit, the three-time champions have never lifted the Cup title on consecutive weekends.
Coach Gareth Baber said they often perform well in the second week of a back to back and if they can repeat their performance from last weekend they’ll give themselves a great chance of success.
“We’ve never managed that, certainly since I’ve been here, to be able to put back to back tournaments together and for us as a group when I say putting back to back tournaments I know everybody will talk about winning but I’m talking about getting the repeat of a performance,” Gareth Baber said.
“As international athletes that’s all I really focus on is if we are able to repeat the performance that we put in last week then that’s the sort of consistency that’s showing from the way that we are with each other, the behaviours we show day to day, the work ethic we’re putting in, the support from staff in the FRU – all that sort of thing goes together to produce these performances.”
There’s one change to the Fiji squad, with Apenisa Cakaubalavu replacing Paula Draunisinukula, who is still being eased back after missing the start of the season through injury.
“I mentioned last week it was a tough decision to not select Apenisa as he has been working very hard at training and pushing the squad to produce their best. He has again proven himself on the field this week and we know he can do the job he needs to do this weekend,” said Baber.
“Paula will step back into 13th man this week as we manage his workload and return to full strength. We are fortunate to have this kind of depth in our ranks.”
Fiji’s first match at Spotless Stadium is against Japan before tricky encounters against England and Samoa on day one.
Gareth Baber is adamant his players won’t take any team lightly.
“I know that everybody will look at Japan and write Japan off – well do that at your peril because everybody wants to beat Fiji and that will be our first game at 11:36am on Saturday,” said Gareth Baber.
“We know from then on we’ve got to get in our game very quickly and we talk about the focus we need to bring to that game, especially on the first one. Then the likes of England, who play a very structured game, very smart individuals, good game awareness – have had us in the last couple of years on occasions as well…and obviously playing Samoa last up will be another tough ask so it doesn’t get any easier.”
Tonga look to build experience
Tonga are embracing the challenge of three more formidable pool matches at the Sydney Sevens.
The Kingdom finished 13th in Hamilton last weekend, in their first World Series tournament for five years, including victories over Japan and France.
Coach Tevita Tu’ifua said conditioning would be a major challenge for his squad, with 11 of their 12 players having made their World Series debut a week ago.
Atieli Pakalani is the veteran in the team, with five World Series tournaments to his name for both Tonga and Australia.
Regular skipper Tana Fotofili is also suspended for their first two games against reigning series champions South Africa and host nation Australia, who are defending the Sydney title.
“Sevens now is no easy game, as you witnessed down in Hamilton. We treat it as such so we are expecting and we are loving the challenge, so we are pretty much confident within our group the way we prepare and approach to this tournament.”
Tonga’s final pool match is against Argentina.