Fiji's major gamble on Semi Radradra
Gareth Baber, the gold medal winning Fiji Sevens coach, has revealed he took a major gamble by picking Bristol’s Semi Radradra, knowing the centre would struggle to reach the fitness levels needed for the Olympic Games in Japan but was confident his experience would be vital in their bid to defend the title on in Rio in 2016.
Many were surprised that Radradra did not feature in the final which saw Fiji repeat their gold medal triumph by defeating New Zealand 27-12. Although Radradra did not get much game time during the rugby 7s competition, he scored a decisive try against Argentina in the 26-14 semi-final victory.
Radradra was selected despite not having taken part in any of the pre-Games training camps due to Bristol’s Gallagher Premiership campaign which saw them knocked out in the semi-finals. Radradra then worked with the club’s fitness team to try and get himself up to speed for the Games event and flew separately to Japan to link up with Baber and the other squad members.
As he reflected on the gold medal triumph, Baber told Fiji Times the selection of Radradra was important despite knowing he was off the pace of the other players. “I knew Semi wasn’t at the fitness levels as that of the other boys and there was no way he could get to that,” said Baber.
“I knew having worked with him previously that there will be two or three key areas he could bring higher-level quality of skills to our team, but not only to himself but lead others in that direction.
“I also knew that off the field we still needed strong leadership in the group to be able to bear the stress of a place like Tokyo with the COVID-19 restrictions in games village experience.
“Somebody like Semi has been there and done that and he can still do it.In terms of our culture and how we travelled through the days and the rhythm that we had, he was there.
“So I think that there was always a gamble in that position and we trusted him.”
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