Fiji’s patchy form leading up to the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens means they may not be favourites to win a record fifth straight title but the tournament’s rich tradition means they can never be ruled out.
Isake Katonibau, who was part of last year’s championship-winning side, said coach Gareth Baber has included some young players in the squad and the players know that every Fijian – in the stands and at home – will be praying for victory.
“They say you haven’t played for Fiji until you have won in Hong Kong and that alone is enough incentive for the boys,” said Katonibau, who has retired from sevens and is this year coaching the Fijian Army team in the GFI Hong Kong Football Club 10s tournament that is traditionally held during sevens week.
“There are some young players in the squad and it is time for them to step up and for the senior players to help them.
Hey guys our here’s a nice welcome to your week from our Fiji Airways Fijian 7s in Hong Kong.
— Fiji Rugby Union (@fijirugby) March 31, 2019
“Even if Fiji are not in good form, Hong Kong is different. There will be a lot of Fijians in the crowd and I can tell you, when you are in the tunnel in Hong Kong and hear them, it sends shivers up and down your spine.
“Fiji are in a tough group but the Hong Kong Sevens special to them so we can’t count them out.”
Fiji are in the “group of death” in Hong Kong with Pool C also featuring New Zealand, Australia and Kenya.
Katonibau was meant to have retired after the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens but Baber persuaded him to return for last year’s tournament. However, this year, he has truly given up playing and is happy to be coaching the Fijian Army, who feature several former sevens players.
Baber’s side are looking to recover after falling short in the USA Sevens and Canada Sevens in March, having won at Cape Town and Hamilton.
Their task has been made even more difficult by a number of injuries, including captain Kalione Nasoko.
Olympic champions Fiji are third in the world series standings after six tournaments on 101 points. USA lead on 113 points with New Zealand second on 106.
Photo caption: Isake Katonibau being interviewed by Hong Kong media