If there is anyone who knows what it takes to beat Fiji on a regular basis, it is Waisale Serevi – the world’s greatest ever sevens player who is now coach of Russia.
The Fijian master who performed his magic for more than 16 years, mostly using the Hong Kong Sevens as his stage, is in South Africa helping prepare the Russian team for the Hong Kong event from April 5-7.
He said the Sydney Sevens proved that Fiji can be beaten as his compatriots lost to eventual champions New Zealand 36-14 in the semi-finals.
Although, Serevi’s “revelations” are hardly new, it is the implementation of the advice that is proving difficult for most teams, with offloads, close support and deft handling being the hallmarks of the Pacific islanders’ success.
Phil4:13 It’s not only a team, it’s a family @russiarugby 7s and it’s been a wonderful last couple of days at @sas_hp Academy. VINAKA🙏 so much @BlitzBokke and @Blitzboks for the helping hand and wishing you all the best this season. 🏉🇷🇺🇿🇦🇫🇯💪☝️ pic.twitter.com/6afU9raQ7K
— Waisale_Serevi (@Waisale_Serevi) February 16, 2019
“New Zealand showed the world that Fiji can be beaten,” Serevei told ruggworld.com. “You starve Fiji of the ball to prevent offloads because if you allow them to play off each other then the try is on.
“You can’t miss tackles against Fiji, their support is so deadly and you have to bring them down. Keep in mind that the Fijians have long strides and are not easy to catch when they are running past you.
“Most important stick to your game-plan and what you believe in and don’t adjust your game-plan when playing against Fiji. You will make unforced errors and that is when the Fijians will capitalise and score tries.”
Fiji’s Olympic success was based on a simple strategy of taking the tackle out of the equation. As soon as a Fijian player was hit, the ball would be with a teammate before the tackled player even touched the ground. It was something coach Ben Ryan prided himself on saying after the gold medal final in Rio that “we don’t want any secondary ball”.
Great time had by all! SA Rugby Sevens Academy and @russiarugby 7s had a good hit-out at @sas_hp today. Thanks to our visitors for a good week! @Waisale_Serevi @MariussSchoeman pic.twitter.com/fRXRJfzVwJ
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) February 15, 2019
Serevi knows he has a major task on his hands as he tries to help Russia qualify for the 12-team World Series, with the qualifiers also being held in Hong Kong at the same time as the main competition.
“Ten days before the Dubai tournament I joined the Russian team as the head coach and thank the Russian Union of Rugby for having faith in me to build their 7s programme, and am now three months in this capacity,” he was quoted as saying.
“Russia is a Tier 2 nation after falling in the HSBC 7s Series last year and my goal is to get them in Tier 1 within the next two years. There is an imbalance experience-wise between Tier 1 and Tier 2 and hopefully I’ll be able to help Russia to rectify this imbalance.
“With technology and advice today at your disposal it is not difficult to do this. You can get clips of each player in a team and work out a counter attack for your team when they play against the different opponents.
“I am trying to set up structures in Russia to assist with this. It is very important to have academies in your country to produce players on a regular basis to fill the shoes of the senior players if they decide to leave sevens to pursue a career in 15s.
“I am currently working out structures to benefit sevens players in Russia and create a clear pathway for the 7s programme, set the big goals and the small goals to get us there.”
Main photo: Waisale Serevi with Blitzbok players. Credit: Twitter