Sevens; is it time to panic yet?
Another leg of the HSBC Sevens and it appears Samoa is still barely hanging in there with our 13th position on the ladder, – a far cry from the glory days of 2010.
In the Singapore Sevens, with two yellow cards handed out in the game against Kenya our team took upon themselves an extra burden during the last pool match to go down 17-7 against the 2016 Singapore tournament winners despite an early lead.
The score was the same against Argentina – 17-7; we had a creditable win against Japan 26-14 and were agonizingly close in the 19-14 defeat by Wales.
Up against Australia, Samoa was edged out 19-12.
So what’s the story?
Asking rugby fans for their opinions will guarantee a different answer from each one and often a combination of several.
Coaches, the players, money, the management, discipline, skills, referees, fitness levels, the Olympics, the new countries and expectations – our expectations?
In the early days of Sevens rugby, and Samoa has competed in the Hong Kong Sevens since 1978 and World Cup Sevens since 1993, a favourite cry of foul was often used against the referee if we lost.
And at times there were valid reasons for doing so with our physical and intimidating style of play which many referees and opponents were forced to get used to.
There were also valid reasons for the whistle blowing and penalties when a lack of discipline and frustration from our home team saw us losing winnable matches.
Those days of ill discipline are largely gone.
Mismanagement at the very top has also taken its toll over the years but cannot be entirely blamed for the demise over the years since 2010.
Then a revolving door (still) of coaches and questionable player selections have at times had Manu fans puzzled while the growing popularity of the code has had a telling effect on the less populated, less wealthy Pacific countries.
Pacific rugby players, to their credit, can be found in the majority of teams from around the world on the circuit nowadays – a testament to their highly sought after skills and the opportunities they have to make a career.
With the introduction of rugby Sevens as an Olympic sport there was an instant explosion of northern hemisphere countries getting on board. With large populations to select from and the money to buy the technical expertise needed, it wasn’t long until the traditional rugby sides found that the newcomers were just a sidestep away.
Suddenly there were no foregone conclusions when two teams ran out and upstarts like Kenya and the U.S.A. were playing catch up way too fast.
Backed by big corporations, huge audiences and television companies that started calling the shots of when and where and World Rugby placing a greater emphasis on the dollar signs, times were definitely changing.
But all is not lost and rugby continues to be the wonderful, unpredictable contest it should always be with the chance for the underdogs to have their day.
With a new coach and a firm eye on the next Olympics, Samoa has the opportunity to once again build up and be up there where we know we belong.
Patience, planning and perseverance are what we need; past mistakes should be heeded but not dwelt upon and we need to show our support for our players who we know are capable of continued improvement.
Finally immediate or short term expectations of success may need to be changed to something more long term.
It’s not time to panic … yet.