HSBC Singapore Rugby 7s

Rugby: Mojo back, Fijians seek consecutive HSBC 7s titles

Fiji players in a rugby sevens clinic with 50 students from SportCares' school partners at the OCBC Arena yesterday. After losing three finals this year, the team are rejuvenated by their victory in Hong Kong.
Fiji players in a rugby sevens clinic with 50 students from SportCares' school partners at the OCBC Arena yesterday. After losing three finals this year, the team are rejuvenated by their victory in Hong Kong.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

They break 2017 duck with HK success last weekend and are eager to light up Kallang

Fiji believe they are on track for more success at this weekend's HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens, following last weekend's dominant victory in Hong Kong.

The reigning back-to-back World Series champions, boosted by the return of forwards Isake Katonibau and Jasa Veremalua, had lost three finals (Dubai, Wellington and Las Vegas) to series leaders South Africa before ending that losing streak last Sunday.

Katonibau had been away due to army commitments, while Veremalua missed the Las Vegas and Vancouver legs in March owing to the birth of his daughter.

Fiji coach Gareth Baber said the duo's return was "part of the overall puzzle of trying to get a (good) performance from a team".

"Isake brings leadership qualities ... he has an excellent work rate on the field, and Jasa has similar qualities in terms of his leadership and high skills, especially his ability to win the ball in the air," he said at yesterday's clinic organised by the Singapore Rugby Union in support of SportCares Foundation.

"When you fit that together with the other skills and attributes of the other players... that's when you get close to replicating the performance (you want)."

He and captain Osea Kolinisau are aware of the tough task ahead at the National Stadium. Fiji's last Singapore title came in 2006.

The event stopped after that year, but returned to the Republic last year, when Fiji were shocked 30-7 by unheralded Kenya in the final.

Kolinisau told The Straits Times: "We're pretty stoked about winning last week but we know there's another challenge at the Singapore Sevens, and most teams will want to learn from their mistakes last week and are gunning for the title."

Baber added: "Even though you won a tournament, you start from game one again and try and get through. Our aim is to put ourselves in a position where we get through to the cup semi-finals and finals."

Fiji are second in the standings with 122 points, between South Africa (145) and England (113).

Beyond the Singapore Sevens, however, Baber is aiming to extend Fiji's success in the sport beyond the series. The Welshman joined in January, replacing Ben Ryan, who led the team to Olympic gold in Rio.

He has targeted wins at next year's Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens, and the 2020 Olympic Games.

Acknowledging the "tough environment" of today's sevens game, he added: "What makes me confident is the quality of talent we have in Fiji that continues year-on-year, and I'm confident in the way they play and conduct themselves.

"I'm not saying I'm always going to get it my own way and it is tough sometimes. But unless you have that self-belief, it's pretty much a non-starter."


  • Tickets are available at singapore7s.sg
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'Mojo back, Fiji seek consecutive titles'. Print Edition | Subscribe