The embattled Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U) has found backing from a very unlikely source. Mase Mahonri Schwalger, the man dubbed the People’s Captain who was dumped after speaking out against the administration of the Union in 2011, said the Union cannot be blamed for Manu Samoa’s recent failures.
With one win from three tests in their Northern Hemisphere tour, Mase said it’s the coaching staff and the players who must be held to account.
“I was pretty disappointed with the performance of the players and the team,” he told the Sunday Samoan. “I mean in terms of the players that they’ve got, that was probably the best team we’ve had for a long time."
“There were a lot of good players for this tour and I was pretty disappointed about their performances in the first two games they had. You know everyone is passionate about Manu Samoa and the problem is, when they do well, we all support them and if they don’t then we all sort of like criticise them."
“That’s natural and its part of rugby as well.”
But Mase said it is unfair to blame the Union and the Board members.
“I think our people need to stop saying that it’s the Union’s fault that the boys are not doing well. We have to understand that it is not the Board and the management team playing on the field.”
Since he raised issues about corruption and abuse in the Union in 2011, Mase said he has seen a lot of changes.
“I believe the Rugby Union has done a lot of work and has put in a lot of effort over the last two years,” he said. “They deserve credit for that.”
The problem with the Manu Samoa’s results should be attributed to the coach, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, and his management.
“The thing is, the people need to question the coach,” he said.
“We probably have one of the top coaches at the moment on tour in Alama and his coaching staff. They are the ones whom we need to question. We also need to question the players, whether they are committed. We need to question the coaches if they are bringing in the right game plans for the team.”
From his observation, Mase said there is no cohesion and unity is lacking.
“There is no unity and team spirit. For me, most of them don’t really understand and know what their roles are during the pressure times of the game. I am disappointed because most of these guys play professionally. I am not criticizing anyone but that’s what I think, it’s all about the performance on the field."
“I know they are not clicking yet, but I hope that they will realise this and help them with their performance moving forward.”
Getting back to the administration of the Union, Mase said he has been working closely with the Union to help where he can.
“I communicate with them and I know that they are doing a great job in organizing everything in the Union. I know that a lot of them are getting positive feedback as well."
“I know Vincent has done a great job in the last two years, him and his management team. I sat down with him two weeks ago, and I can see that he has done a lot. He is making a huge difference being the C.E.O in the last two years. I think he had done everything.”
As for the country’s expectations, Mase saidpeople need to be realistic.
“These guys are putting their bodies on the line for our country. It’s just that atthe moment our boys are not performing well. And there’s got to be a reason. It’s either their mindset is not right, or they are not there for the right reasons.
“The Rugby Union has done their part, and therefore the performance really depends on the coaches and the players. They need to do their part as well in order for us to get the right results.”
Asked if would step in to coach a national team if he is given the chance, he said: “For me to coach a national team, it’s a huge task. It’s not easy; it’s not something that you can just step in and do. I have to say that I take my hat off to Alama for the work that he is doing. But at the end of the day, that is his job. His job is to make sure that our boys perform well, mentally and physically.”