Auntie Avril Fillies got hold of most properly the best Sevens player that played the game, Waisale Serevi.
Serevi is in Cape Town, South Africa, to preparing the Russian team for the Hong Kong Sevens Tournament in April.
“When I was playing Sevens it was an amateur sport and only Fiji and New Zealand were the teams to be reckoned with, and it was only one Big tournament the Hong Kong 7s.
Although we played 15s as well, Sevens was played mostly for fun. Today it is fully professional and it is a different ball game.
With Sevens being part of the HSBC 7s Series, now 10 tournaments, and it’s an Olympic Sport, rugby 7s has gone to
another level and Sports science and technology has played a big part in making teams stronger and stronger.
All the countries are trying to work hard to be one of the 12 teams in the world to play in the Olympics.”
This is how the Fijian Waisale Serevi, also known as the best Sevens player in the world, explains the difference between Sevens in his heyday and today when chatting to him at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports in Stellenbosch.
He is in Cape Town, South Africa, toe preparing the Russian team for the Hong Kong Sevens Tournament in April. He played 7s and in 15s for Fiji and in the latter he played 39 times for Fiji between 1989 and 2003 and scored 376 points.
This included representing Fiji in the 1991, 1999 and 2003 World Cups. He also played professionally for the Mitsubishi, Leicester, Stade Montois, Stade Bordelais and Staines rugby teams.
His representative sevens career started in 1989 when he played for his country at the Hong Kong tournament.
Serevi also played in the 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens, winning the World Cup with Fiji in 1997 and 2005.
He won silver at the Commonwealth Games in 1998 and 2002 and captured bronze in 2006. Serevi played in the International Rugby Board Sevens Series since its creation in 1999.
In 2005 after winning the 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens he was appointed player-coach of the Fiji Sevens national team and led Fiji to the 2005/6 World Sevens Series victory – the first time the series was won by a team other than New Zealand.
“Ten days before the Dubai tournament I joined the Russian team as the Head Coach and thank the Russian Union of Rugby (RUR) for having faith in me to build their 7s programme, and am now three months in this capacity.
Russia is a Tier 2 nation after falling in the HSBC 7s Series last year and my goal is to get them in Tier 1 within the next two years.
There is an imbalance experience-wise between Tier 1 and Tier 2
and hopefully I’ll be able to help Russia to rectify this imbalance.
With technology and advice today at your disposal it is not difficult to do this. You can get clips of each player in a team and work out a counter attack for your team when they play against the different opponents.
I am trying to set up structures in Russia to assist with
this. It is very important to have academies in your country to produce players on a regular basis to fill the shoes of the senior players if they decide to leave sevens to pursue a career in 15s. I am currently working out structures to benefit sevens players in Russia and create a clear pathway for the 7s programme, set the big goals and the small goals to get us there, “ Serevi said.
He also said that today it is not easy to say who is going to win when two teams are running onto the field during the HSBC Sevens Series, and he believes that’s the beauty of 7s now and its a level playing field, whoever turns up and do the right thing, wins that game.
“Gone are the days when it was a given that either Fiji or New Zealand will hold the trophy aloft, because the USA, England, South Africa and Argentina are forces to be reckoned with.
South Africa has won back-to-back and is the current title-holders. With four tournaments done and dusted and six left every team is out to beat South Africa. The fact that six of their key players are lost to sevens due to them playing fifteens is not a situation that I would wish on any coach.
We all are aware that Neil Powell is now busy rebuilding the team and he is slowly blending the youth with the experienced players,” he said
The six players that are not in current the SA Sevens team are Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith, Ruhan Nel, Rosko Speckman, Dylan Sage and Tim Agaba and they were the core players in the Blitzboks.
With twenty plus tournaments per player, Powell not only lost experience but also the gelling of the team.
“The reason why I am in favour of academies or high performance is that the players are playing together for long periods, train together, they can pre-empt what the other one is going to do and they know how to execute the game plan.
There are no margin for errors in a sevens match as that could cost you the game. When these Academy players are drafted into the senior team, you are bound to struggle in the rebuilding phase.
With time everything will get better and this is why I would love to try set up something similar to what I saw here at the SAS Academy in Russia, to benefit the players. As you know, it is winter in Russia with snow, icy winds and cold weather in general.
We are in Cape Town because it is summer and the temperature in Hong Kong is more or less the same as here and the players must get used to playing in extremely hot weather conditions,” Serevi said.
On a question how the Blitzboks can beat Fij he chuckled and said: “I think coach Neil has a fair idea on what to do in Vegas.”
“New Zealand showed the world that Fiji can be beaten. You starve Fiji from the ball to prevent offloads because if you allow them to play off each other then the try is on.
You can’t miss tackles against Fiji, their support is so deadly and you have to bring them down. Keep in mind that the Fijians have long strides and are not easy to catch when they are running pass you.
Most important stick to your game plan and what you believe in and don’t adjust your game plan when playing against Fiji. You will make unforced errors and that is when the Fijians will
capitalize and score tries,” he chuckled.
He has great respect for the Blitzboks who is the current HSBC 7s
Champions 2 Series in a row, and wished them well for the rest of the HSBC 7s Series.
He wants to thank the SAS Academy for the hospitality
that he and the Russian team experienced in Stellenbosch.