Changes are needed after the poor performance

By The Editorial Board 12 April 2024, 10:00AM

It was a difficult game to watch as the Japan XV, most of them below the age of 20, hammered the Manuma Samoa side 48-5. A 43-point difference and zero points were scored in the second half.

Where did Manuma Samoa go wrong? Simple, everywhere. The first thing was that there was not enough respect accorded to the opposition. It showed in the pre-match conversation with the captain that the line of thought was that the game was already won. You can never underestimate an opponent. Lesson number one is to give all teams the same amount of respect.

If Manuma Samoa thought they were going to push the smaller Japan aside and run right through them, then that assessment was corrected on Wednesday afternoon. If anything, the team management should have learnt from last year about the capability of the young Japanese team. Although slightly smaller in size, they are quick and have developed a two-player tackling system that they showcased last year.

The first player tackles below the knee, tying the legs together, seconds later, the second player tackles the mid-section. This system was so effective last year, that Manuma Samoa was not gaining ground and this year, they perfected the tackling method.

Japan is known for its set-piece plays and the sheer speed of the team. It was proven when they scored in the first minute of the game and then the last minute. For the home fans, the second half was like a horror movie. Manuma Samoa could not do anything right and Japan was doing nothing wrong.

Samoa gave away penalties, there were discipline issues as there were a few hot-heads who did not have the composure to play in a high-pressure game. Japan was dominating the second half because Manuma Samoa players were offside, infringing in the rucks and there was poor discipline all over.

The hot sun should have affected Japan more but it seemed that it was the Manuma players who were out of breath and walking back to be onside. If the coach says that the team has been together for more than two months, it surely did not show on Wednesday night.

The Japan XV team is made up of university students who are in contention for a place in the Japan squad for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2024 in Scotland in July. In addition, four “over-aged” players have been added to the team – hooker Kenji Sato, second-row Kento Aoki, scrum-half Asahi Doei and centre Yuta Akihama.

New head coach Naoya Okubo, a veteran of two Rugby World Cups as a Brave Blossoms player, has been putting the players through their paces since February with a series of training camps complemented by a four-game series of warm-up fixtures against Japan League One teams, which ended in a draw and three defeats.

Did the Manuma Samoa spend this much time together and were there any scrimmages arranged? This showed in the game.

The performance of the rugby teams at all levels even in the sevens game is far from desired. This should signal a change, not in the team management but in the board and management of Lakapi Samoa.

For years, the same song has been sung that we are an amateur association. The fact is that being an amateur is only a state of mind. If the plans were in place from the beginning, then the pathway would have been there.

For years, the rugby competitions at the village and provincial levels have been organised in a similar structure and nothing has changed. We have not seen much improvement in the local competitions and there seems to be no drive to improve things at the grassroots. The pathway from local competition to the Manuma Samoa also seems missing and we keep getting overseas-based players.

Perhaps it is time for the old guns who are in control to step aside and allow the younger ones to take the helm and bring about the change. The performance of the team is perhaps a reflection of the leadership of Lakapi Samoa.

For rugby to improve, changes are needed not only on the field but at Lakapi Samoa too.

By The Editorial Board 12 April 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

Upgrade to Premium

Subscribe to
Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy unlimited access to all our articles on any device + free trial to e-Edition. You can cancel anytime.