Apologies to all who may find the title offensive in any shape or form. The title simply states the obvious; the sorry state of Samoan rugby.
Just in case some of you think I am being unpatriotic days remove from celebrating our Independence Day simply know this; honesty is blest in worse days like these. Now that I’m done with the civility on to harsh reality.
In the early hours of Monday, about 5:30 in the morning, I was already pumped up because of what I was watching. I was amazed. Erase that. I was electrified!
Our neighbour-rivals, the Flying Fijian’s, dismantled their closest rival, the Springboks of South Africa, at the HSBC London Sevens Cup Final. Again and again, our rival- brothers showed the world their out-of-this-world performance even when down by 6 men at one point.
No wonder they are the Olympic Sevens Gold medalist and the current leader of the HSBC Sevens Series 2018. They are indeed in a different level, a notch above all else.
As I think of their consistent successes in the past years, I can’t help but draw comparisons between us and our rival-brothers, the Fijians. We are very similar to our Fijian brothers in many ways yet our results are very different every time.
Here are some of the similarities.
The year is 2013 when the Fijians, not only started to excel (they are always a tier one team), but exploded in the game of Sevens. They hired a calm-mannered coach in Ben Ryan. Under his tutelage, he collected 9 HSBC Cup titles, and to top all that, led the Fijians to their first-ever Olympic gold medal.
Nowadays, they are led by a different coach Gareth Baber but have equally impressive results. So far they collected 5 HSBC Cup titles this year and most likely will be crowned the HSBC 2017-2018 overall champion.
In a similar twist of event, the year was 2015 when S.R.U did what the Fijian team did, hired a first-class coach in Damian McGrath. In his short stint, he led the boys to capture their first HSBC Cup title in Paris two years ago stunning the Flying Fijians. Suddenly, S.R.U sacked McGrath and replaced him with the great Sir Gordon Tietjens.
In short, both teams have white well-qualified coaches.
Similarities do not stop there.
Natural talent is something the Samoans and Fijians are born with albeit raw.
Huge physical stature, with bones as dense as rocks, is what we and our Pacific brothers have in common, no questions about that.
Tantalizing set of skills, although mostly unrefined, is also programmed in our DNAs long before you and I were born.
A fever-high passion of the game of rugby is also within the confines of our ocean-brothers. I believe the term is ‘rugby-crazed’ country like our rival-brothers.
What hurts the most (like the song) is this: the more titles the Flying Fijians get the more I feel like having a brother who is just simply taller, smarter and better looking than I am. Although we share the same DNA, his is just a better-arranged DNA than mine (Lol). Very annoying disposition aye?
What I have mentioned above are only a few similarities I can think of as of the moment, I am sure there are more, I let you guys add to my list whenever you feel like it.
But the point is, having all these divine qualities did us almost next to nothing these past few years because Manu Samoa still sucks while our rival-brothers rocks!
My public defense of players
By implication, I somehow defended the players in my article entitled ‘Sir Gordon Tietjens, where art thou?’ because I perceived that a distance-coaching style approved by and initiated between S.R.U and Sir Tietjens will do more harm than good. I said,
“Without this personal relationship there will be no trust and without trust, there will be no learning— these are tightly intertwined with each other.”
Basically, I was saying that coach’s personal relationship with players is a pre-requisite in all learning process before any triumphs. I was worried because ‘distance’ is a great barrier for coach-players relationships to build, and one potential result is players might resist from and listening to anything a coach would teach.
But now, it’s time to defend Sir Tietjens and the S.R.U!
My public defense of S.R.U and Sir Tietjens, plus my constructive advice directed to the Manu
As I think of the strategies used by S.R.U et. al since 2015, plus, the divine attributes of both our peoples (Fijians and Samoans), I can’t help but wonder about the obvious: our multiple similarities are not enough to get similar results.
Perhaps because these similarities are neutralized by one single attribute that quite a few of our men in blue do not have —true humility. For the sake of this article, true humility, meaning reliant upon the divine and the called (coaches and S.R.U staff) is missing.
Let me explain quickly why I suggest this.
In the past few months, I have learnt that some of the boys in blue are resisting to learn the small but very important details of the Sevens rugby.
Based on a reliable rumour (wink wink), few have even said that they would rather be out of the team than to listen to a ‘palagi’ instructions. Take note, ‘palagi’ instructions.
I only hope that low level of English comprehension, not low IQ or lack of education, or worse, lack of humility, is the reason why players choose not to listen to Sir Tietjens. Sadly, my ‘informant’ said it was mostly uttered with an arrogant tone.
For what is worth, there is a parcel of truth with what the PM has stated, however small truths in it, that lack of education, to explain why Manu Sevens are still in this sorry state, is the reason why our boys do not perform well.
Of course, his statement should not be taken as the whole truth because my uncle Lebron James and cousin Usain Bolt did not have an advanced degree other than a high school diploma. But who can argue that they are geniuses of their own sports? (PM, did I just pour cold water in your somewhat one-bullet-kills-all suggestion? Lol).
It takes a thousand and one ways to become successful in life and in sports and the PM knows this.
All things considered though, humility is one of the many ingredients to be successful in life and sports, and frankly, I think all other attributes hang on it.
Regretfully, some of the boys in blue are still far from being humble as shown in how they behave privately, and at times, publicly.
My Public plea
Players, specifically to the arrogant ones, regardless of your philosophies in life, your education, and your overall background when you are wearing the blue shirt and paid mostly by the government, hence by extension, by the hard-working people of Samoa, you are a player first, second everything else.
Because of this and more, whatever instructions Sir Tietjens ask of you on and off the field, as long as rugby related, legal, ethical, and moral kindly listen to it, internalized it, and apply it to the letter of it – you are duty bound to your coach, to S.R.U. and to us!
Besides, Sir Tietjens has been there a thousand times before so he knows what he is doing!
In life and in sports, great things are achieved by small and simple decisions each of us makes. Combined these small and simple decisions into one then you’ll see great things to take shape.
Great team, great players, and great coaches do not just become great by themselves. They become great because of the small and simple decision they make of first; accepting that they are good enough to be part of a national team but there are still rooms (plural) of improvement. The acceptance of imperfection is one of the many signs of humility that could propel greatness from inside out.
I could care less about the level of education, or the lack of it, a person that is enveloped with true humility will achieve more and be great in the sight of our Creator and his fellowmen than the arrogant ones.
My brothers in blue, be humble in all your ways from hereon so that we will stop wondering why the Flying Fijians continue to rock the rugby world while the Manu Samoa suck our ‘world’.
‘Silence all your egos’ first, listen to Sir Tietjens and be men you all ought to be—the mighty men of Samoa.
Ryan Christian Flor Nemes