Young Fijians will come good: Tuwai

Fiji fly-half Jerry Tuwai believes the new players can make an impact in the last four legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Fiji fly-half Jerry Tuwai believes the new players can make an impact in the last four legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Fiji have won the Rugby World Cup Sevens twice, the Hong Kong Sevens 18 times and are the reigning Olympic rugby sevens champions.

But the team have not performed to their usual high standards in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which fly-half Jerry Tuwai attributed to a lack of experience.

He told The Straits Times in a phone interview: "We're not doing enough as a team. The players have the potential and can do better.

"This season, there is a lack of experienced players so there's a bigger gap for the new boys to fill.

"But they're adapting well and Hong Kong and Singapore will be good platforms for us to excel."

The team finished second overall to South Africa last year and are aiming to win the series this campaign, to add to their titles in 2006, 2015 and 2016. They are third in the standings after six stops, 12 points behind leaders USA and five behind New Zealand.

Fiji won the Cape Town and Hamilton legs and finished third in Vancouver despite head coach Gareth Baber having to make changes to a squad hit by disciplinary and personal problems.

With just four more stops, including Hong Kong this weekend and Singapore next week, time is running out for the Fijians to meet their target.

"We always come to win tournaments, but sometimes things will go wrong. Right now, we're focusing on Hong Kong and, thereafter, we'll look to Singapore (where they are the defending champions)," said Tuwai.

Besides the HSBC Sevens, Fiji are also aiming to retain their Olympic title in Tokyo next year.

"We definitely want to put up a team that can defend our gold medal and I'm confident that the new boys will perform to the level that is expected of them," added Tuwai.

The 30-year-old, who grew up playing rugby with plastic bottles in Newton, one of the poorest districts in the capital Suva, recalled what his mother said when she bought him his first pair of boots when he was 15.

"I didn't think that my mum would buy me such an expensive pair of boots because her salary (as a house girl) was very small, but she saved enough money to buy me those boots," he said.

"She said this is my knife and fork and if I want to play rugby, I should go and make a living out of it."

Those words still motivate him today. He added: "Even now, when I play, even if I'm injured, I will keep on playing and that's something I always tell the boys.

"It's not about the training, it's about how I was brought up."

•Tickets priced from $19 for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series Singapore leg at the National Stadium are available at singapore7s.sg.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2019, with the headline 'Young Fijians will come good: Tuwai'. Print Edition | Subscribe