Discipline and national pride key for Manu Samoa's success
The time for monkey business is over and the Manu Samoa know this very well as they gear up to face Japan in their third Rugby World Cup match on Friday morning.
This is the game that would decide if Manu Samoa is making an early exit from the RWC or still have a chance to qualify for the quarterfinals. Manu Samoa has played in every Rugby World Cup since the 1991 tournament.
Their omission from the inaugural tournament in 1987 was controversial, as there were no qualifications. Their worst World Cups were in 2007, 2015 and 2019 when they finished fourth in their pool.
It has been 28 years since Manu Samoa played in the knockout stages. For head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua the game against Japan is going to be the telling one irrespective of the fact that Samoa still has a game in hand and that the team beat Japan in the July tests.
On paper, Samoa has a better team as all players in the team are professionals and some are playing for the best clubs in the world. However, games are won on the field and not on paper. Manu Samoa has to forget that they beat Japan in July or they came close to toppling the best team in the world.
They have to remember what they did wrong in their last game and build upon that. It was very silly for our players to start committing fouls from the very first minute. That happened in the game against Argentina where the team played with a man down for the first 10 minutes.
If anyone is to blame for that loss, it is the players who kept on committing fouls and allowing Argentina to convert those into points. That needs to be cut out especially when we know how disciplined the Japanese are and will drive Manu Samoa to make mistakes.
The world knows that no one hits as hard as the Samoans when it comes to tackles. Hitting hard does not mean playing dangerously. This can be done by the book and that is what we need for the team to do.
The coach also needs to focus on kicking duties. Christian Leali’ifano is one of the most prolific kickers in rugby, however, he was not in the game last week. This Friday, he needs to show not just reflections of his game in the heydays but be his former self. He is the pivot that could take Manu Samoa to the next stage of the competition.
This is the Manu Samoa team that has the potential to make history and the tiny nation of ours knows this and that is why cars are flying the Samoan flags and ‘Go Manu’ stickers are being placed on windshields. This is why most people will go to work late on Friday because Samoans love their rugby and there is something special when the national team is playing.
The game of rugby does not stop with the Rugby World Cup, there is a lesson to be learnt from this one. Our neighbours Fiji is proving to be the best Pacific team in France and there is a reason for this. Even before the Fijian Drua was given the Super Rugby green light, for at least three years, a Fijian team made up of just local players played in the Australian National Championship.
This allowed a pathway for local players to progress and then the Drua was formed and the rest is history. Lakapi Samoa needs to do something like this. Yes, we do have the Moana Pasifika but as seen by its recent signings, players playing locally in Samoa have very little chance of making the cut. Imagine if there was a better pathway for our local players.
Now think of the next RWC. We would definitely have more professional and younger players. Right about now, Manu Samoa has become a platform for aging players to have their last hurrah on the world stage. Experience is not a bad thing but we need to grow our local talent. These are the players who will play with national pride and that is a key motivating factor when you put on the blue jumper.
Lakapi Samoa along with other Pacific unions also need to push for more international tests with Tier One teams. This can be achieved.
While this may seem as a cheeky potshot, Manu Samoa last appeared in the RWC knockout stages in 1995. After the change of government in 1998 when the head of Lakapi Samoa assumed leadership as prime minister, somehow the team has never been a reflection of its true potential. Could this be related?
On Friday morning, Manu Samoa will be backed by thousands, their prayers, cheers and support will be with the team. We hope that Manu Samoa steps up and puts on a performance worthy of the names in the team. Let’s go Manu.
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