Fiji - the biggest attraction in the shortened game
25 May, 2011
|(L-R) Watisoni Votu, Setefano Cakau and Digicel Fiji 7s coach Jo Savou. |
Fiji wanted to entertain while winning, South Africa just wanted to win; reverting to a 7s form of 15-a-side. In the second half of the London 7s final, they chose to use a six man maul, 'Pick and Go', and a five man line-out. Not pretty, but it worked, shutting down the Fijian attacking machine that had destroyed N.Z. in the semis. Once they had the ball, they - South Africa - made sure they were going to keep it.
The Digicel's 7s team started the weekend in London , on Saturday, in a pool that included Portugal, Russia and S.A. Warm, sunny skies and a crowd of over 50, 000. The new look Joe Savou squad started as they were to continue. Two tries within two minutes against a bemused Portuguese team chasing shadows. Every game they played was the same; running rugby, switch passes just a pleasure to watch.
Of the 110 minutes of rugby they played, Fiji held the lead from the kick-off for 95 minutes. Only the last nine minutes of the final, stopped the free-flowing 7s that they put-on. The crowd loved it, including some 200-300 Islanders who had come from every part of England to cheer 'Go Fiji Go'.
Three wins out of three in the group stages set up a quarter-final clash against Samoa, who were seen off 26-14, Metuisela Talebula controlling the game-plan and dictating play as he did for much of the weekend. The semis saw the All Blacks blown away by a nearly perfect display of attacking 7s one could ever hope to see. The result, 42-19, was only distorted by two late tries conceded by Fiji in the last minute.
And then the final - a repeat of Las Vegas.
Two early converted tries from Watisoni Votu and Livai Ikanikoda had the crowd roaring. 14-0 Fiji. A converted S.A. try saw a half-time score of 14-12 with the South Sea Islanders still in the ascendancy.
Fiji and almost everyone else still believed it could be won, but two things altered events. An early Boks try made it 17-14. Then a switch-pass into the middle, from an attacking move in the S.A. half when there was space on the wing. The move was stopped, a possible try gone. The Boks won a penalty, and from the bench came the instruction to shut down the game. Touch - five man lineout; ball won - six man rolling maul. The crowd whistled their discontent. 7s had become 15s. Joe Savou’s young guns did not know what to do. The final was lost though even media articles the next day were scathing about South Africa’s performance in the final.
So a disappointing end to what was otherwise a great advert for Fijian rugby. Nevertheless the 100,000 spectators who saw the men in 'Black and White' play, went away knowing why they are the biggest attraction in the shortened game.