The manager of the Flying Fjians, Pio Bosco Tikoisuva, has denied players are unhappy saying it's a case of them not playing the game plans that were set out for them. The 1999 Rugby World Cup coach for Fiji and former All Black, Brad Johnstone, suggested yesterday some players are unhappy and there is indecision in the coaching camp. Johnstone watched Fiji's 7-27 loss to Samoa on Sunday and spoke to players after the game, later saying some were unhappy. But Tikoisuva says he's spoken to the players and they have told him nothing is wrong. He also confirmed the players will be paid $30,000 each.
Meanwhile JONE BALEDROKADROKA was one of the disappointed fans whose urging team captain Deacon Manu to fire for Sunday's game against Wales.
More than 10,000 Fiji fans are estimated to have been waving flags or dressed to show their pride in a team and a nation renowned for its open free spirited rugby. In fact, the Police Brass Band display along Eden Park's railway station drew more applause from fans than the Flying Fijian team's dismal performance.
During the game the TV camera zoomed in on All Blacks greats Bryan Williams and Michael Jones in the VIP stand to the roar of the 60,000 crowd. The two Samoan sporting heroes had played and scored some of the best goals for the All Blacks. Fiji’s All Blacks winger Jo Rokocoko and AmasioValence Raoma, the ace New Zealand sevens player, were also in the crowd in this Polynesian sporting extravaganza. We were all set for the rumble.
As the game progressed it became evident our boys were being outgunned by a team that was once only good enough to play our minor unions in fifteens when it toured Fiji in the 1970s.
We were thoroughly beaten in all facets of the game and in the last quarter even die hard Fiji fans had had enough and wanted the game to end quickly before more humiliation. Plain and simple, it was an amateur team performance against a professional Samoan side with spirit.
At half time sitting in the cold and drizzling rain, I reminisced back to the first international game I watched at Eden Park.
It was the All Blacks vs. Scotland back in 1975 in a driving rain storm. As a schoolboy in the temporary seating next to the sideline, I watched a perfect wet weather rugby display by the All Blacks on ‘Lake Eden’.
Bee Gee had scored a memorial try that soggy day by his sheer power and brilliant side step. A precusor to the trade mark big burly Polynesian and Fijian wingers of New Zealand and world rugby.
Against the Samoans, we had the outside backs but our backline looked pedestrian in attack because of a lack of a class Number 9 and 10 combination.
Our boys from the first whistle did not adapt to the slippery conditions like the Samoans did, hence the poor skills and penalties. Watching their warm up prior to the game, they did not include any slippery/wet weather individual or collective drills. This became evident in the first 20 minutes of play as our boys looked sluggish to a well-drilled Samoan pack.
I had also watched an international match on Eden Park on one of the very few times the All Blacks had lost on home soil.
The All Blacks former winger, Jo Rokocoko, served yagona as we sat trying to make sense of a dismal performance at the after match fundraiser at the Auckland Blues Club House at Carrington. Looking over to Amasio’s corner where he was deep in a ‘team talk huddle’I rued for someone of his calibre for generalship of the game which was badly lacking.
Smokin’ Jo had his face painted with the Vuni Niu logo of Fiji and even wore a Fiji jersey to show his patriotism. (Don’t tell the Kiwis!). He sat contemplatively smiling as he taloed the yagona. ‘Talanoa about your French contract Jo’ someone piped up. ‘Io Vinaka cake then talk about the rubbish game’ said another.
‘The backline phases attack don’t have embedded second man play formation and stand too deep and wide like Levula’s time’ offered smokin' Jo. Definitely this is a valid point I thought having sat and watched our boys caught on the horns of a dilemma wanting to play the structured and unstructured simultaneously.
‘Io man truez- up that formation is old fashioned’, said Cat Railoa, the former Fiji Army flanker.
Ex-Fiji rep Tevita Vonolagi rang all the way from Perth to register his disgust of the loss that night as the bitter kava flowed.
‘The modern game’s offensive patterns revolves in creating the doubt in your opponents as to which defensive lines to adopt. This we did not do and hence they read our attack every time. Hence we resorted to a crash-it-up tactics in despair,’explained Tevita, once feared for his spot tackles.
Against Wales this weekend we must restore our pride as a rugby playing nation by playing the semi-structured game. Trying to play both games led to such a lukewarm performance against Samoa. And the scrums? Against Wales, Deacon Manu will need to instill a bit of his old Mooloo grunt in his front row to win at Hamilton.