A great learning curve
Flight delay, freezing weather and jet lag didn’t stop Samoa A from securing third place at the America’s Pacific Cup Challenge.
Fresh from Uruguay, Head Coach of Samoa A, Potu Leavasa , spoke to the Samoa Observer yesterday about the challenges they faced and lessons learnt from the tournament.
Before even stepping foot on the pitch, Samoa A faced their first obstacle of the tournament when their flight got delayed and had to spend 11 hours in Chile.
The team arrived in Uruguay with barely anytime to get acclimatised and accustomed to their surroundings which is in stark contrast to our island nation.
“For 11 hours, we stayed in Chile because of the flight problems. It was an issue for us because we arrived two days before the first game.”
“It cost us, because some of the boys tried to recover, because of the different altitude and the weather. We had to get used to the weather because its really cold over there.”
“Because of the late travels. One of the biggest issues for Samoa in any tournament is the long travel. But I’m pretty happy with the boys and they stuck in there and put their effort in to win that game.
The team went on to win their first match, with tries galore against Uruguay A with a final score of 44-42.
When things were finally looking up for Samoa A, the next obstacle the team faced was having key players injured like team Capitan and Afa Aiono and specialist hooker Lafo who ended up sidelined.
“Another thing that cost us is injury. The Capitan, Afa Aiono and specialist hooker caused another big problem for us. We didn’t carry any other specialist hooker, so lucky we came through the last two games. We tried to put Oneone (Faafou) throw the ball. It was good for us,”Coach Leavasa stated.
Overall, Coach Leavasa believes the Samoa A development program has been successful it’s mission to provide a pathway for local players to be chosen for Manu Samoa.
“At the end, 5 local players were selected for the Manu Samoa. That’s what Samoa A is all about, developing our local players and a chance for them to step to another level, the Manu Samoa and the Sevens as well. Also for a chance for them to put their hand up for the Manu Samoa jersey,” he stated.
Those five players are heading to London for the Northern Hemisphere Tour include: Oneone Faafou, Danny Tusitala, Patrick Faapale, Nephi Leatigaga, and Ope Peleseuma. This is especially important for debutants Peleseuma and Leatigaga as their first time putting on the blue jersey.
One familiar name in the line up is Patrick Fa’apale, who’s outstanding performance in Uruguay definitely earned him a spot on the Manu. His conversions and spot on kicking is what kept Samoa A afloat as they were trying to find their footing in the tournament.
Coach Leavasa commented on Fa’apale’s integral place on the team . He stated, “Fa’apale is one of the most experienced first five for Samoa A because he’s been there for a long time. Also , he’s been in the Manu Samoa system as well.”
“So having him in the Samoa A, Patrick is one of our key players, not only in goal kicking, he is one of the main drivers to help the back lines and he knows how to read the game. That’s why he has been selected for Manu Samoa. It’s good for him and us as well.”
Now that he’s back, Coach Leavasa is raring to change the game in Samoa to raising the level of competition.
He stated, “Some of the local players, this was the first time over there. I talked to some of them one on one and feedback from them is that it’s a different competition .”
“Like here in Samoa, there’s no high level of competition. Now, from here to Uruguay, it’s a big step for them. I mentioned to the Rugby Union, we need to develop here in Samoa. We need to look at high level of competition. So its easy for our players when they go overseas, they can compete with other players as well.”