Sevens legend Waisale Serevi is urging his Fiji side to maintain its discipline and avoid the peril of yellow cards as the new IRB World Sevens Series gets under way with the traditional opening leg in Dubai today and tomorrow.
New Zealand have been world champions eight times in the event’s nine-year history with Fiji the only side to break that stranglehold, in 2006. And Serevi, back in charge again as coach for the new campaign, is well aware that keeping a full compliment of players on the pitch can only help Fiji close the gap on Gordon Tietjens’ all-conquering squad.
“It is something we have been working really hard on over the last few weeks,” he said. “Some of the players tend to get a bit frustrated and then we find we only have six players, but it’s almost impossible to win a Sevens match without a full team. We had a lot of yellow cards last year but we have now learned our lesson.”
Serevi, who was captain the last time Fiji won in Dubai in 1998, added: “This year we have been rebuilding and have a good mix of boys. I see the world series as the foundations and the [Sevens] World Cup in March [in Dubai] as the roof. We are here to win but so are so many teams.”
That forthcoming World Cup is adding extra intrigue to the new World Series as coaches look ahead and plan how to best use their resources. Serevi may add to his current squad with the mercurial Agen-based Rupeni Caucaunibuca in the frame for selection, while Tietjens confirmed that he will be able to select one player from each Super 14 franchise to boost New Zealand’s hopes of recapturing the World Cup from Fiji.
First though, Tietjens is focusing on following up last season’s record-breaking six victories in the eight-tournament world series.
“Last year was a dream year for us, something that was very special. We’ve lost a few players and there are a few new faces this time,” he said.
“It’s a bit like 2006 when we had a new side but lacked experience. Fiji won the series that season but we came back the following year having learned from our mistakes. I still have belief in this side, but the series is now very competitive. There are probably six or seven teams that can win any of the tournaments,” Tietjens said.
South Africa were for much of last season the side that put the most pressure on New Zealand, but coach Paul Treu is also rebuilding his squad.
Seasoned campaigners such as Steffan Basson and Fabian Juries are out of the frame while captain Neil Powell is on the sidelines with a broken arm.