I write in response to a letter titled “Time for some accountability in terms of our rugby results.” Here are some more facts.
1. The qualification series for the R.W.C. 2019 is still happening. Samoa is playing Fiji and Tonga over the coming weeks. Even if Samoa loses to both of them, they still have a chance to qualify for the RWC 2019 through a repechage series.
2. Womens rugby has been non-existent in the past but actually at the moment, female rugby programmes are growing in the schools and in the junior levels. It is the best it has ever been in terms of development of the womens game.
3. True, our Rugby 7s performances have been abysmal but except for the golden era between 2007-2012, our rugby 7s never won a tournament in the IRB 7s series. Before then, Samoa won the Hong Kong 7s once in 1993. Fiji and NZ dominated HK before the IRB world series. Fiji have always been great at 7s, Samoa has not. It was the S.R.U. old regime under previous CEOs under which the 2007-2012 all-local teams and coaches defeated the world. Ever since that golden generation of players have retired or gone to 15s, Samoa’s performances have actually just reverted to “normal” if we are going by results before 2007.
4. There are now more local players (ie: players who play for overseas professional clubs BUT are actually born and bred in Samoa) represented in our Manu 7s and Manu 15s.
5. The facts are that other countries simply have more money to spend on their rugby programmes. Georgia in recent years opened a brand new state of the art Elite Training Facility worth US $15 million (ST $40 million). Samoa has nowhere near that kind of money.
The world rugby grants are nowhere near that level of funding. All of the countries Samoa used to beat with ease - Japan, US, Scotland etc in 7s spends upwards of 50-100 million (their currency) on their rugby programmes. Samoa barely scratches 1 million tala (300,000 USD). You will notice the sponsorships are in the tens of thousands of tala. Overseas, their sponsorships are in the tens of millions of dollars. The major reason is that Samoa is a small market that is not attractive to major international sponsors. Even NZ is a small market compared to Europe and Japan. NZ cannot match the salaries on offer in European clubs.
Samoa shouldn’t even be anywhere near these countries in terms of performance but amazingly Samoa is still one of the recognised rugby countries in the world that still competes with the richer countries. For example, it has beaten Wales 4 times in its history. Beaten Argentina several times. Even beaten Australia. It punches well above its weight for the limited amount of money that is spent on Samoa.
Now for my opinion.
1. Locals playing overseas is the best way to promote local players into the Manu 15s. The Manu 7s team is different as our local competitions are strong enough to field fully locally based players to international level. Samoa simply cannot afford to have a fully professional domestic league in 15s.
2. In 7s, I think the golden era in 2007-2012 has heightened our expectations beyond what was historically normal.
3. The new S.R.U. CEO and team are trying their best under trying financial circumstances.
4. It is completely unrealistic to have amateur players playing club rugby in Samoa to beat out professional rugby players. There are many local players who are now playing professional rugby overseas than at any point in the past.
5. Samoa, for such a small speck in the ocean, makes a big noise in international rugby. Many other richer countries like Singapore who are absolutely useless at sports.
6. The Manu Samoa brand is about upsets. David taking on goliath and winning. Upsets don’t happen very often but when they do, they shake the world order. Samoa does not beat the best very often but every now and then, it does (or comes close to). The “every now and then” is what sporting folklore is all about and what palagi newspaper people rave about overseas. Samoa “on its day” despite every statistic saying no, Samoa says yes. Yes we can. So in my opinion, I don’t think the Manu Samoa has been harmed to the extent that it is historically normal.
78-0 thrashings are easily forgotten because they are “normal” for such a small speck in the ocean, but when Samoa beats Australia or comes close to the All Blacks at Apia Park or beats the UK teams or beats the world in rugby 7s, this history of many losses but occasional huge wins (or heroic losses like against England in the RWC 2003) sustains the brand and carries the folklore that was created when the 1991 team first created history.