Rais­ing Spir­its of Cy­clone Josie Vic­tims

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Fiji has claimed a record fourth straight Cathay Pa­cific/ HSBC Hong Kong Rugby Sevens crown – and an 18th over­all – fol­low­ing a pun­ish­ing 24-12 win over Kenya on Among oth­ers, the win has helped eased the hard­ships of those still suf­fer­ing af­ter Cy­clone Josie tore through Fiji in the first week of April – leav­ing four dead and a trail of de­struc­tion in its wake. When news of a de­vel­op­ing TC Keni broke, the Fi­jian camp had to fo­cused on rais­ing the spir­its of peo­ple back home through their ef­forts at the Hong Kong Sta­dium “We’ve talked about it all week – what we could do to lift the wor­ries and stresses peo­ple are hav­ing in their lives – and I thought we did ad­mirably this week­end,” said coach Gareth Baber af­ter the win. “It’s fan­tas­tic to have done it for the peo­ple of Fiji and for those guys af­fected by the floods in Fiji.” The win surely helped do just that af­ter Fiji were pushed hard by a South African squad full of the na­tion’s next gen­er­a­tions of stars. It was 26-24 to Fiji when it ended but it could re­ally have gone ei­ther way. Then two yel­low cards in the first half left Kenya with five on the field, and a Amenoni Nasi­lasila try and con­ver­sion at the death pushed Fiji to a 17-0 half-time lead that proved in­sur­mount­able. “The semi-fi­nal was tough,” said Baber. “We knew South Africa would come at us. But we stuck to what our plan was and our plan was to come and win this one.” Boos rang out around the sta­dium af­ter the yel­low cards – one for a Collins In­jera trip on and one for a Willy Am­baka knock off the ball. And they con­tin­ued in­ter­mit­tently through­out the game – a strange ef­fect, when Fiji had the ball, given the way they are wor­shipped here in Hong Kong. But no one cared by the end as cap­tain Jerry Tuwai lifted the Cup and re­flected on its mean­ing. “The Hong Kong Sevens is like the World Cup in Fiji and four years in a row is like win­ning the World Cup,” said Tuwai. Both Fiji and Kenya had come to Hong Kong packed full of the stars they hope will lead them into medal con­tention at the Com­mon­wealth Games on Aus­tralia’s Gold Coast next week­end. Kenyan coach In­no­cent Simiyu was left look­ing at the pos­i­tives in that re­gard. “I think we per­formed pretty well through­out the tour­na­ment but the big­gest chal­lenge for us was the dis­ci­pline in the fi­nal,” said Simiyu. “It wasn’t up to scratch. If it had been maybe there would have been a dif­fer­ent out­come but no we will build up from the bot­tom again for the Com­mon­wealth Games. We’ll take a lot from this go­ing for­ward.” So, too, will South Africa, a de­vel­op­ment squad that during the Hong Kong 7s showed some fright­en­ing flashes of the shape of things to come for the Bl­itzbok, what with the World Cup in San Fran­cisco loom­ing in July and then the Tokyo

Olympics in 2020. I’m very proud of the young play­ers,” said South African coach Mar­ius Schoe­man. “We had our chances against Fiji, but still ... We had an av­er­age age of 19-20 here. No one gave us a chance and we’ve got the bronze medal so it’s pretty fan­tas­tic. There’s a bright fu­ture for South African rugby for th­ese play­ers and I’m sure we see plenty of them again in the years ahead in Hong Kong.” Af­ter push­ing the Fi­jians to the very limit of their tal­ents in the semi-fi­nals they brushed a New Zealand de­vel­op­ment squad aside 29-7 in the third-place play-off – a re­sults that en­sured they held on to their lead in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Se­ries. Head­ing into the sev­enth of 10 legs in Sin­ga­pore on the week­end of April 28-29, the South Africans are on 126 points to Fiji’s 123.

Fiji’s third tour­na­ment win of the 2018 Sevens Se­ries took the team to within three points of lead­ers South Africa in the over­all stand­ings. The 2019 Sevens Se­ries will in­volve Ja­pan af­ter Damian Ka­rauna’s side beat Ger­many 19-14 in the an­nual world se­ries qual­i­fier in Hong Kong. Ja­pan is also one of two Asian qual­i­fiers that will con­test the World Cup Sevens in San Fran­cisco in July

(This ar­ti­cle ap­peared in the South China Morn­ing Post print edi­tion as: Four-midable Fiji Reign Supreme)

Our boys af­ter a win at the Hong Kong 7s.

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