The toughest job in Samoa

By The Editorial Board 02 April 2024, 10:00AM

As expected, Lakapi Samoa has made the change and now Mase Mahonri Schwalger has been made the man-in-charge of Manu Samoa. Hopefully, there is a new mantra that Mase has that would see a much better performance from Manu Samoa.

Let us bite the bullet and accept that Manu Samoa's performance last year, despite the number of big names, was below par. It was not what was expected of the team. Once again, they finished fourth in their pool and that means that they need to qualify for the Rugby World Cup.

Last year was a tough lesson for Manu Samoa. For the new head coach Mase, the plan for the next World Cup should start now.

The first thing he needs to realise is that the younger players such as Theo McFarland, Miracle Tuilagi and Samuel Slade and the ones in the Junior Manu Samoa will be the ones to lead the team forward in the next four years. He and Lakapi Samoa should have a better pathway for sending local players into the Moana Pasifika squad.

Having young Samoans who are born in Samoa get into Super Rugby increases the chances of having a better-performing national team. It would be futile for him to pick players who have gone past their best years and just because they had been All Blacks or Wallabies at one stage, does not mean they should be selected for Manu Samoa.

He has to keep in mind that many of the current players in the squad now would be closer to 35 years or more for the next World Cup.

In the next four years, there will be more players with Samoan links who will put up their hands to play for Samoa, some because they would want to have their last hurrah at the Rugby World Cup before they hang their boots. Julian Savea now plays for Moana Pasifika, he might consider playing for Samoa. If he were to be selected, would he do justice to the jersey?

The five Tuilagi brothers who have donned the blue jersey made Samoa their first choice. They could have easily represented any country they wanted but they showed what it means to bleed blue. This is the level of patriotism needed to serve the jersey. These are the type of players needed and only then Samoa can step out of their pool without finishing fourth.

This is why selecting local players and developing them is the right way to do it. Even when these players go abroad for club contracts, their heart is to play for the nation of their birth, for their villages, and their families.

Apart from the extended Pacific Nations Cup that features USA, Canada, and Japan, Lakapi Samoa should be working at providing at least four tests outside of this competition and these tests should be with teams who are in the top 10. That would be the right way to go if the Pacific nations aim to achieve glory at the RWC.

The new coach has been a player and it is good to see former players born in Samoa taking up the challenge to mentor the team. The former coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua did his best and we wish him all the best. He had a good management team made up of some of the top guns of rugby and he also had some of the top players on paper.

Now that we have seen that just picking up players from different parts of the world and putting them together does not produce the results that people demand, it is time to change the formula. The Rugby World Cup is four years away and this means that Mase has four years to put his plan to work.

People are not just expecting the team to win but they want the team to develop. They want to see Manu Samoa back in the top 10 of world rankings and once again be a feared opponent when they play the so-called Tier One teams.

The job of Manu Samoa coach is perhaps hotter than that of the Prime Minister. There will be constant criticisms because, after a loss, even the old women with access to data will become experts on social media.

Let us wait and see if Mase’s formula works for Manu Samoa.

By The Editorial Board 02 April 2024, 10:00AM
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