Manusina 7s coach happy with players' performance

Manusina 7s coach Auimatagi Sapani Pomare says he is happy with the performance of women players in the first week of the National 7s Trials.

The coach told the Samoa Observer in an interview that while there is still a lot of work to do in the women’s game, he saw improvements in their various matches last Thursday and Friday at the Apia Park Stadium.

“We are more focused on the skills I’ve worked with them on their fitness but not so much,” he said. “For last week’s trials I felt really happy, it was not a big step-up, but there’s an improvement in the way the ladies play. 

“They have started to avoid following the ball as a team, for instance, wherever the ball goes the whole team follows. 

“But I have spoken with them to avoid that and try using only three players in the ruck, while the others stretch out, either attacking or defending to ensure the ball stays alive.”

Auimatagi indicated that his overall objective is to bring the standard of the women’s game up to that of their male counterparts.

“So we are trying to get the ladies to be on that level, they should be able to reach the boy's level,” added the coach. “Then we take a look at the teams abroad, right now, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia are the best teams for the women’s division excluding Europe and other international teams.

“But those are the Oceania teams that we’re looking at, but that is the level that we are hoping for our girls to achieve.”

The need for each player to understand her role in the team on the field is also important, according to Auimatagi, as he said there were instances last week where a player made the wrong call resulting in the loss of possession.

“That’s how they should work and each player should understand their roles in the field, the area that they lacked last week was their ‘calls’ inside the field.

“They weren’t consistent, sometimes their decisions are 100 per cent and sometimes are just wrong like sometimes they just attack, and then suddenly they just throw the ball to the back. “These are the areas that I and the coaches are working on this week so that coming Thursday and Friday there will be a change to their performance.”

Another area that the coach says the players need to improve on is being smarter when they have possession of the ball and capitalise when there are gaps in the defensive line.

“Making use of the space, the ladies should know how to use the spaces to their advantage,” he said. “They should not just get the ball and pass it while leaving the whole space in front of them. 

“They should try and use the space to control the ball, but in terms of speed, only one girl almost reached the speed level that I’m looking for.”

Talking about the speedster that he’s identified, Auimatagi said she’s a natural, though others will also need to work on theirs.

“Her speed comes naturally to her so what’s left is for us to build up that speed. Watching as a sevens coach, I need the ladies to have the same speed. 

“We need to have a playmaker, a penetrator and a finisher in the team. If we all have these three people, then we will have a 100 per cent squad.”

This week, in the lead-up to the games this Thursday and Friday, the coach expects the women players to show more confidence and flair and improve their playing skills.

“I am expecting them to improve their skills because if their skills are good I can put in some calls to make use of their skills,” he said. “The importance of having calls is to create space and confuse the defenders on who the ball will go to. 

“And on their defense their tackle should be good, if you look at last week, their tackles weren’t there but they have the skills to do so.”

Auimatagi added that they also need to work on their breakdowns and up the ante on their passing skills.

“The breakdowns are another thing, and their body position when they go into the breakdown, they should go low and not high. 

“Their passing skills, for the sevens the passing can beat a player. Those are the areas that we will look into this week and search for a penetrator.”

Sixteen players will be selected after the second week of the National 7s Trials to make the Manusina 7s Long List Squad. The women teams in the trials are Nafanua, Tilafaiga, Taema, Savaii and Manono.

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