Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, is optimistic that the Manu Samoa Sevens team has what it takes to secure the last remaining spot for the Rio Olympics.
Wishing Coach Damien McGrath, captain Tole’afoa Falemiga Selesele and the team the very best ahead of the last tournament in Monaco next week, Tuilaepa told the team they are just as good as any other team out there when they put their hearts and minds to the task.
Speaking during the farewell at the Samoa Tradition Resort on Thursday, the Prime Minister referred to the recent victory at the Paris leg of the World Sevens Series as an example of what the team is capable of.
“The way you won that Cup was extraordinary,” he said. “It shows that you have the ability to do it. You also showed from that tournament that you have the ability to qualify for the Summer Olympics 2016.”
Over time, Tuilaepa has noted vast improvement in the team since the rebuilding process with English coach, McGrath. He said while the team has the ability, simple mistakes have proven their undoing in the past.
But all that can change with hard work, confidence and composure in their ability and the game plan as well as faith in God, the Prime Minister said.
The tournament in Monaco presents the last opportunity for Samoa to qualify for the Olympics, having failed to secure a spot during the World Series as well as the Oceania Sevens Qualifying tournament which was won by Australia.
From the Oceania tournament, three teams have already secured their places in the 16 spots on offer. They are Australia, Fiji and New Zealand.
Some of the leading teams in Samoa’s way at Monaco include Canada, Russia and several other minnow countries capable of creating upsets on the day. At the last World Rugby Sevens tournament in London, Samoa lost to Canada, during the pool games where they failed to win a single game.
The week before, they had hoisted the Paris Sevens Cup after defeating Fiji in stunning fashion, for their first World Rugby Sevens Series title since 2012.
Despite the win, McGrath said getting to Rio remained their number one focus and the win in Paris would mean nothing if they don’t clinch the spot at Monaco.
“Our aim is still Monaco and the Olympic Games,” he said, referring to Monaco as “the real target for our season.”
“I said to the players afterwards it’s a shame if we waste everything we’ve done through the year by not fulfilling our real potential and getting to the Olympics to represent the country.”
In response to Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Team Manager, Va’afusuaga Masunu Talapusi, said the team will do their very best to make Samoa proud. “We want to thank this nation for their support. We could not have achieved anything without your support and prayers.”
Captain Toleafoa Falemiga said their performance in London was regrettable and it could be put down to a lot of factors. However, now is not the time to dwell on the negatives as their focus has moved on to Monaco.
“What’s important is that we have to stand together,” he said.“Team work is more important for us and as the Captain, I have to encourage the boys to keep up and make Samoa proud.”
The team has left the country for the tournament scheduled for the 18th and 19th June 2016 at the Stade Louis II Stadium in Fontvieille, Monaco. They will spend a week training in Brisbane before they fly to France and on to Monaco.