Gareth Baber believes Fiji’s defence of their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title is already being written off by critics after a disastrous season opener in Dubai. However, he is confident his players will prove the doubters wrong despite facing a ‘pool of death’ in Cape Town on Friday.
The second leg of the series has pitted reigning champions Fiji in the same pool as Dubai winners South Africa and the USA, who were ranked No1 for much of the last campaign. Japan complete the line-up.
The Blitzboks will also have the support of the crowd in Cape Town, making Fiji’s task even tougher. But head coach Baber is backing his men to rise to the challenge despite their major setback in Dubai where they failed to make the knock out rounds and finishing ninth.
Speaking from Cape Town, Baber told RugbyPass: “I know people will already be writing us off in terms of winning the series and I’m not interested in that. I want to show that we are taking steps towards being the best team we can be.
“We are the defending Cape Town champions and came here a year ago in similar circumstances not having performed in Dubai and the senior players pulled things together. The biggest challenge we have is creating consistency by eradicating distractions and we have looked at that this week.
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“Over a number of years we have chased the pack and I believe that for Fijian teams to be written off, having a bit of embarrassment and feeling that you have let down the supporters and family back home, is a motivating point.
“But, I also think that doesn’t produce consistency and we have to find our rhythm. When we do the players are very difficult to stop. We have been in tough pools before and if you look at the way the teams finished last season and you put us with South Africa and the USA, it does look tough.
“Everybody is gunning for the series while also positioning themselves for the Olympic Games next year in Japan. We want to win every game and didn’t do ourselves justice in Dubai and let ourselves down.
It sounds like it is getting messy on the rugby front in Hong Kong
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“We know that we are capable of beating those teams because we have done it in recent years and if our mindset is right and we have done our homework and not got above ourselves, then we will be in a position to win the pool.“
Baber particularly wants to see significant improvement in the way Fiji deal with restarts and also discipline, which didn’t operate at the level he wanted as the team invited pressure on themselves with errors.
“We know it wasn’t good enough and without the ball, we didn’t apply enough pressure,” he explained. “It is a clear indication that if we want to get back to the form at the end of last season we have to improve and there is no shirking from the fact.”
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