Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber admits to equal feelings of pride and frustration after his team threw away a golden chance to win the World Series.
After a slow start to the season, Fiji had won four tournaments in a row and five out of six, leading into the final round of the season in Paris earlier this month.
The series leaders were seven points clear of nearest rivals South Africa and only needed to reach the Cup semi finals to clinch the title.
But after leading throughout their quarter final against England, Fiji conceded in the final seconds to lose 19-17 and watched on as South Africa won the Paris final to defend the World Series crown.
Gareth Baber said they got themselves in a really good position to win only to throw it away.
“If you look at the first sort of two or three tournaments we weren’t in that position at all – in fact we were somewhere down in sort of fifth or sixth,” he said.
“So I take great heart and pride in the fact that we put some real good rugby together this year to win the five tournaments that we did win but ultimately we reflect on probably the Paris tournament and one game against England and let in that flick in the last couple of minutes which really cost us the series.
“So mixed emotions if you like: pride in terms of what we have achieved but also frustration, disappointment that we didn’t manage to see it out.”
Both Fiji and South Africa suffered surprise defeats during pool play but still managed to top their respective groups.
However Baber conceded Fiji’s defeat in the first knockout round put them in a vulnerable position.
“It went from having it in our control to passing control over to South Africa and following that England game we did everything we possibly could to keep the pressure up but South Africa are a good side and Neil (Powell) got them playing right until the end,” he said.
“We were hopeful that the Spanish quarter final, which was very close for them, or playing against the likes of New Zealand and/or in the final (against England) as well that something could happen but in fairness to South Africa they saw it out but we gave up that right really when we lost in the quarter final.”
Despite falling short of the main prize the team had made significant progress during his second season in charge and still had a chance to win major silverware at next month’s Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, Baber said.
“We have found ourselves in very high-pressurised situations in tournaments this year and the majority of the times we’ve come out on top,” he said.
“It’s tended to be perhaps games where we haven’t been under that scrutiny, that pressure that we haven’t quite lived up to the form that we can show in those instances.”
“You know in rugby that you will get another opportunity at some point…there’s a lot for us to build from and a lot for us to aim at and to potentially get a World Cup winning medal would be probably just desserts for our players because they’ve worked so hard to get there,” reflected Baber.”
“There’s always something that needs to be done in Fiji when it comes to rugby – obviously the Commonwealth Games is one – and we you go through numbers of tournaments there’s always records to establish but this is one we’re ambitious to get and we’d love to come back with a World Cup and make it so for this year.”