Small man carries hopes of a nation
He’s a small man with a big heart.
And tonight at Apia Park, David Lemi, will need to summon every bit of courage he has in his small frame when he leads the Manu Samoa against Wales in a test match where his team needs to win.
Lemi, a veteran of the Manu Samoa, knows the expectations are high.
But he also accepts that it comes with the territory, especially for a team dearly loved by Samoans.
“We are always grateful for the support from Samoa and our people,” he told the Samoa Observer. “We don’t take for granted that despite the results, our people continue to support us with love and their prayers.
“This means a lot to us and I want to thank you all for your support. Please continue to support your Manu Samoa on Friday (tonight).”
The results Lemi is referring to include last week’s drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks. He said it was disappointing but the team has bounced back and are ready to move on.
“There’s no doubt that everyone here in Samoa and around the world watched the game and everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” he said.
“But for the team, we have to stay focused. It’s not that we forget and let go of the lessons and mistakes from the All Blacks game but we have to concentrate on Wales now. That’s what matters.”
Preparations this week have been good, he said.
“We’ve worked on the things we didn’t do so well last week and we are getting better. The emphasis is on growing strong together for the sake of our beloved Samoa and their tapuaiga.”
Captain Lemi has played Wales before and he knows what to expect.
“For the game with Wales, it’s not going to be an easy one for us but we’ll stay strong and do the best we can and hopefully we’ll come away with good results.”
Hooker Paul Alo-Emile, who will be making his first Manu Samoa start, said the team is well prepared.
“We’re better prepared this time because this is our second week together as a team and we are starting to find those relationships within the boys and find those connections,” he said.
“Having an extra week also has helped make that bond stronger.”
Emile expects a torrid battle up front.
“We need to focus on what we have to do against Wales.
“The game last week was tough and obviously the All Blacks is the best team in the world.
Most of those boys play together and they’ve been together for a long time.
“For us, we are a team made up of players from all around the world and that’s the challenge.”
It’s a challenge veteran first five Tusi Pisi knows all too well about.
“We need to be a lot sharper as a team,” he said.
Having a bit more time together means Pisi is confident there will be a lot more improvement on defense.
“Obviously it was tough during our first week with preparation and that but now we’ve got systems and all of us are accountable o that.
“We have to prepare well, we have to focus on ourselves, make sure we get the details right and just play.”
Pisi expects Wales to play a more expansive game.
“We’ve learnt heaps from last week,” he said.
“Obviously when you play the best team in the world you have to learn quickly. The boys are really hoping to get the details right this week. There will be no excuses.
“You will see a different, a more improved Manu Samoa team come Friday.”
Flanker Alafoti Faosiliva is looking forward to starting for the Manu.
“For now, we have been working on our defence, scrums and line outs as well and also the combinations between players,” he said.
Faosiliva said playing at home always brings out the best. For him, it’s about passion and pride in the Manu Samoa jersey.
No doubt, Samoa expects nothing less.