Time to start afresh

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

New beginnings are always exciting. For our beloved Manu Samoa, that new beginning kicks into another gear today when a relatively young team made up of largely new players takes the park against Georgia for their opening international of the season.

It’s an exciting time but it’s also nerve-racking not just for the coaching staff and players but the army of supporters – many not having the slightest of clue what to expect. 

And here therein lies the challenge for coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia and his team. As a new unit, you don’t expect them to be perfect right away. There will be tumbles and falls along the way which is life, you’d think. 

The problem with this expectation is that even with a relatively young squad like the one we will see, the Manu Samoa fan base does not expect them to lose to Georgia. Not today and especially not at Apia Park. 

Which means that even with a relatively new squad, there is a strong expectation for the Manu Samoa to be victorious this afternoon. 

All things considered, that should happen with relative ease. History tells us that Manu Samoa should be too strong regardless and they should be home quite comfortably in the end. 

The spanner in the works is the fact that the last time these two teams met, Georgia won. It was a shock then and it is still hard to fathom now. 

What’s more, the lack of any information about the Georgia team we will see on the park this afternoon makes them an even more dangerous opposition. We simply don’t know enough about them.

Throughout the week and since they arrived, the Georgians have been claiming the underdogs tag. And rightly so. They have also kept a very low profile.

But the Manu Samoa should not underestimate them. They are not easy beats. We know this Georgia team is not here for a holiday. They have a big pack, they are aggressive and they have the potential to run rampant if the Manu Samoa do not contain them early on. 

It’s a big job but we’d like to think that the men in blue have got this covered.

Taking a step away from today and Georgia, the bigger picture for the Manu Samoa is that this is the start of a new era. 

Coach Namulauulu is the man who has been entrusted with the task of reviving the fortunes of the Manu Samoa after the failure of the recent Rugby World Cup campaign. Speaking of that, the story of Manu Samoa’s World Cup is well known. A campaign that started out so promisingly with big hopes ended in crushing disappointment and resignations. Many of us know the story. 

Today, we want to say that we shouldn’t dwell on the past. At the same time, we should also not ignore the lessons from the past because those lessons can only help us move forward and to avoid the same pitfalls.

Heading into today’s game, Coach Namulauulu and Captain David Lemi will be well aware of these lessons. They know what happened in the past and they will be determined to start afresh, begin a new legacy.

Regardless of the circumstances, the Manu Samoa will forever remain the people’s team. It is a team that belongs to Samoa and it will always be that way. That is why the weight of expectation is so heavy; it is also why we love them in this part of the world. They are our team.

The truth is that it has been a long time between drinks when it comes to the Manu Samoa 15s and Samoan rugby. As a rugby mad nation; a winning team is well overdue. 

That said, we believe it is time to turn a new leaf. With a new professional coaching staff, new players and some great plans in the pipeline for the Samoa Rugby Union, it’s an exciting time. And Georgia is just the right opponent to kick off this new era.

Indeed, today is about new beginnings. It’s the start of the official countdown to the next Rugby World Cup, which should ultimately be the goal of everything we do from now onwards.

To Captain Lemi and his team, o outou mama na. Go Manu Samoa!

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