Tough rivals, but Fiji ‘in control’ in final Olympic matches, says coach

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Fiji Tokyo Olympic rugby sevens men
Fiji players celebrate with their gold medals after winning the Tokyo Rugby Sevens final against New Zealand at the Tokyo Stadium in Japan. Image: Adam Davy/PA/FijiBlogPost

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Fiji Olympic men’s rugby sevens coach Gareth Baber says the team had to dig deep but was able to control both the semifinal against Argentina and the final against New Zealand last week, reports Fiji Blog Post.

“We knew that Argentina was a tough side and we were aware out of all the teams around the world, they had played the most international rugby over the year,” Baber said.

Baber was speaking from Tokyo via Zoom to the media in Fiji organised by the Fiji Rugby Union after winning the gold medal by beating New Zealand 27-12 at the Tokyo Stadium on Wednesday night.

Baber said he was aware the Argentinians had several tournaments in Spain, in Dubai, in the United States and so they had international competitions and were one of the best prepared teams coming to the Olympics.

“They were a good side and probably as close to a Fijian side you could probably get,” he said.

“At international level they play a good high tempo type, they don’t have particular set structures in the way they attack and their defence is about work ethic and scramble and I knew we had to be tough.

“We had to be physical, we had to be as physical as we were when we had to play GB [the day before].

‘Maintained discipline’
“I thought we did that well, we maintained that discipline.”

Baber complimented his assistant coach Brad Harris who helped prepare the side mentally in what they were going to face against the South Americans.

“I was aware that probably they would get a try or two, we managed our side mentally through that and I was particularly pleased with Brad Harris.

“I knew there were some changes we had to make.

“I knew he was on the island. He was a special coach and we sat down and planned what we wanted to achieve and I would say what you saw yesterday was down to Brad and his input into the team.

“And that effort really we put in against Argentina.”

Fiji defeated Argentina 26-14.

Possession the key
Baber said that in the final the key was possession and he knew that if the Kiwis were allowed too much time in holding on to the ball, the Fijians would come under a lot of pressure.

“We knew if we allowed time for NZ to control the ball and play away from us that we would allow time to put pressure into the game,” he said.

“We had to present pressure by varying our restarts and not just giving them what they wanted.

“Going in occasionally where we could compete and also pushing the ball behind them back in what we call our line chase in defence and I think that sort of unsettled New Zealand and allowed to get more into a broken field game and we capitalised with that in the game a little bit early.

“New Zealand came back but at halftime I set them a target to score three tries which they were quite capable of doing and worrying about the last one where [Waisea] Nacuqu hit the post went in, we were not far away from doing that.

“But it’s testament to the group of players from the new boys that have come in over the last six to seven months, with the players that have come in from Europe and the foundation we had laid with the players who had been with us for a number of years and months.

“And it was good that you get a point in a competition like that’s where the plan works and it came to fruition at the most crucial time.”

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