We still believe in you, Manu Samoa! But you’ve got to catch the ball, tackle and want it badly enough
We shouldn’t kick someone when he’s down. Today, we should apply the same attitude to our Manu Samoa team following their defeat at the hands of Scotland at the Rugby World Cup on Tuesday morning.
To be kept scoreless, 34-0, for the first time at rugby’s premier showpiece is embarrassing. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Manu Samoa’s disciplinary record at the tournament is fast becoming the worst of all the teams.
It’s not something anybody would want to be known for, let alone a team from a country that boasts such a proud record of punching well above its weight at this global event. Which is why we can understand the frustrations.
But it has happened and there is nothing that can be done to change the fact.
The sorry state of play against Scotland on Monday and the tale of the yellow and red cards have now become a thing of the past. Soon it will be a distant memory, albeit a painful one.
Today, however, is a new day and the wonderful thing about new days is that it is an opportunity to start afresh, learn from what happened yesterday and try to do better.
If we are honest, that’s all we are hoping to see from the Manu Samoa, starting against Japan tomorrow morning. A new start and a better effort. Win or lose is irrelevant.
Looking at everything that has been said this week locally and internationally, nobody is giving our men in blue a chance. For good reason. Statistics are not in their favour, the formbook is definitely with Japan and when it comes to the Rugby World Cup, the Japanese has risen to another level since they scored a massive upset against Ireland last week. The boisterous and growing home crowds at their matches will automatically count in their favour.
But is it impossible for the Manu Samoa to win?
The answer is an emphatic no. Although that might be against all odds, defying logic even, we still believe this team can turn things around tomorrow morning. On one condition though; if they really dig deep and want it bad enough.
For starters, when the referee blows his whistle at the beginning, the scoreboard will read 0-0. On the field, they will have 15 men against our 15. That alone is enough to give us hope. It is a new game with new possibilities.
If you look back at Samoa’s problems at this World Cup, with the view of taking the lessons and using them to good effect against Japan, we think there are a few basic things they need to master, and do better than Japan.
Firstly, they should try and catch the ball. You have got to catch the ball before anything else. When they catch the ball, they should try to keep it. They can’t keep hoofing it downfield hoping for a miracle. There are more than enough potent runners and attacking players in that side who can slice the best of defence lines in the world open and create scoring opportunities.
Speaking of scoring opportunities, they need to capitalise and finish their set moves. We’ve seen what this team is capable of when it comes to attacking play. They are a lot better than what we saw against Scotland. They need to get the ball more often to Alapati Leiua, Ed Fidow and Tim Nanai Williams. These players are among the best attacking players in the world.
But attacking alone doesn’t win games. More often than not these days, it’s defence that spells the difference. Sadly, Manu Samoa’s defence thus far has been pathetic.
There are far too many one on one tackles being missed, which is allowing opposition players to run and offload, giving them easy meters. Japan’s victory over Ireland was founded on their defence. They kept tackling and tackling to the point where Ireland became frustrated. We can almost bet our last tala that they will do the same thing against Samoa.
The Manu Samoa will need to the same and do it better. We’ve got to qualify this though by saying better doesn’t mean higher and dangerous. Tackle the player to stop them, not to put them in the hospital.
Lastly discipline will become so critical for Samoa tomorrow morning. If anything, it will be nice for the Manu Samoa to finish a game with 15 players on the field. We agree that some of the calls have not exactly been in our favour but let’s also accept the fact that our players put themselves in those positions. Let’s learn from what has happened in the past.
The point is that although things are looking bleak for Samoa at the moment, we cannot lose and give up hope. We’ve got to believe and hope that somewhere somehow things will get better.
Besides, as of now, Manu Samoa is still in the World Cup with a massive chance. There are two more games remaining and every game is a chance.
Tomorrow morning, it all comes down to how badly coach Vaeluaga Steve Jackson, captain Jack Lam and the Manu Samoa team want it.
But we can only pray and hope. Go Manu Samoa!