You be the Judge!
Which Fiji 7s Team is better; Ben Ryan’s team of 2016 or Gareth Baber’s team of 2019?
They both won their respective HSBC World Rugby 7s Series titles and in fact, Ben Ryan’s team won it back-to-back including 2015 and then iced it by snatching gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games! How can anyone ever forget?
Our Fiji 7s team of 2018 slipped up at the last hurdle in Paris, allowing Neil Powell and his Blitzbok to storm home and steal the title.
No pressure boys, but you now have the 2019/2020 season to win the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series and then cap it off in the Tokyo Olympics with Gold.
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, we thought it best to crunch the numbers and share some stats on our two champion Fiji 7s teams and let you be the judge. In doing so, we acknowledge that the great Waisale Serevi also achieved a similar result with his Fiji 7s team winning the 2006 world 7s series, but the competition was quite different back then and not so easy to compare.
The information below shows results of our Fiji 7s teams from 2016 and 2019 from the play-offs on the final day e.g. in Dubai 2015, Fiji was in the Cup competition and went all the way to win it.
The Fiji 7s team in Dubai 2018, started out in the Cup competition on the final day by losing their quarterfinal to USA 12-24, but bounced back to beat Argentina and South Africa to grab 5th spot.
TOURNAMENT QUARTFINAL SEMIFINAL FINAL
DUBAI 2015 Cup Fiji 19-12 Aust Fiji 19-5 NZ Eng 17-28 Fiji 1st
DUBAI 2018 Cup Fiji 12-24 USA Fiji 31-21 Arg SA 19-24 Fiji 5th
CAPE TOWN 2015 Cup Fiji 14-17 Fra Fiji 38-19 Aust USA 19-29 Fiji 5th
CAPE TOWN 2018 Cup Fiji 46-7 Spain Fiji 17-12 SA USA 15-29 Fij 1st
WELLINGTON 2016 Cup Fiji 21-12 USA Fiji 0-31 SA Eng 12-24 Fiji 3rd
HAMILTON 2019 Cup Fiji 33-7 Can Fiji 29-7 SA USA 0-38 Fiji 1st
SYDNEY 2016 Cup Fiji 28-12 Ken Fiji 12-14 NZ SA 26-26 Fiji 3rd
SYDNEY 2019 Cup Fiji 22-17 Aus Fiji 14-36 NZ Eng 19-17 Fiji 4th
LAS VEGAS 2016 Cup Fiji 43-7 Jap Fiji 21-14 USA Aus 15-21 Fiji 1st
LAS VEGAS 2019 Cup Fiji 14-19 NZ Fiji 14-12 SA Eng 19-14 Fiji 6th
VANCOUVER 2016 Cup Fiji 31-26 USA Fiji 19-31 SA Aust 19-12 Fiji 4th
VANCOUVER 2019 Cup Fiji 22-21 NZ Fiji 12-31 SA USA 12-24 Fiji 3rd
HONG KONG 2016 Cup Fiji 12-10 Ken Fiji 34-5 Aust NZ 7-21 Fiji 1st
HONG KONG 2019 Cup Fiji 29-24 Arg Fiji 28-19 USA Fra 7-21 Fiji 1st
SINGAPORE 2016 Cup Fiji 19-14 Aust Fiji 26-21 SA Ken 30-7 Fiji 2nd
SINGAPORE 2019 Cup Fiji 19-5 NZ Fiji 26-12 Eng SA 20-19 Fiji 2nd
LONDON 2016 Cup Fiji 40-7 Fra Fiji 21-26 SA USA 26-19 Fiji 4th
LONDON 2019 Cup Fiji 33-24 Ire Fiji 17-10 USA Aus 7-43 Fiji 1st
PARIS 2016 Cup Fiji 17-15 Aust Fiji 22-5 France Sam 26-29 Fiji 2nd
PARIS 2019 Cup Fiji 24-5 Fra Fiji 33-14 USA NZ 24-35 Fiji 1st
What stands out in the above comparison is how Fiji struggles in Sydney and Vancouver, finishing no better than third in both years under review, plus as we all know, Fiji owns the Hong Kong 7s.
Fiji won the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series in both years as follows:
a. In 2016 with a total 181 points made up of –
i. Gold x 3 in Dubai, Las Vegas and Hong Kong
ii. Silver x 2 in Singapore and Paris
iii. Bronze x 2 in Sydney and Las Vegas
iv. 4th place x 2 in Vancouver and London
v. 5th place x 1 in Cape Town
b. In 2019 with a total 186 points made up of – i. Gold x 5 in Cape Town, Hamilton, Hong Kong, London and Paris ii. Silver x 1 in Singapore iii. Bronze x 1 in Vancouver iv. 4th place x 1 in Sydney v. 5th place x 1 in Dubai vi. 6th place x 1 in Las Vegas
In 2016, Fiji totaled 181 points followed by:
c. South Africa on 171
d. New Zealand on 158
In 2019, Fiji totaled 186 points followed by:
e. USA on 177
f. New Zealand on 162
g. South Africa on 148
As a result, all four countries above have automatically qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Mens rugby 7s. Others including Samoa and Australia from Oceania, plus England and France from Europe will have to play off for one spot in their respective regional qualification tournaments.
In 2016 only Jasa Veremalua and Osea Kolinisau made the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series Dream Team despite the team registering 3 x Gold and 2 x Silver throughout that series.
In 2019, Fijian players dominated the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series Dream Team with Meli Derenalagi, Jerry Tuwai, Vilimoni Botitu and Aminiasi Tuimaba being named in it.
Jasa Veremalua also won the DHL Impact Player of 2016 with 116 x Tackles, 135 x Carries, 40 x Linebreaks and 69 x Offloads.
Vilimoni Botitu blitzed the 2019 DHL Impact Player of the Year with 124 x Tackles, 159 x Carries, 24 x Linebreaks, 49 x Offloads. Botitu scored 202 points from 26 x Tries and 36 x Conversions. His only blemish was 4 x Yellow cards. Amazing stats for a player also nominated for Rookie of the Year!
In 2016, Bua bus, Savenaca Rawaca was Fiji’s Top Try Scorer with 35 x Tries, trailing South African speedster, Seabelo Senatla on 66 Tries.
In 2019, Aminiasi “Turbo” Tuimaba dotted down for 46 x Tries, just six behind USA sprinter, Carlin Isles who sits top of the pile for this year.
Just for the record, Ba express Vilimoni Delasau scored an astonishing 83 x Tries at his peak in 1999-2000 and more recently and in second place on our list of Fiji’s top Try Scorers, Nadi flyer, Samisoni Viriviri crossed for 52 x Tries in 2013-2014.
Meli Derenalagi won the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series Rookie of the Year award for 2019.
Just for the record, in 2016 the London 7s was held the weekend after the Paris 7s.
It is not easy comparing teams across different eras or years even just two or three years apart due to so many different variables like the strength of the opposition, different players and coaches in our teams, change in rules and venues etc.
One could also argue that Ben Ryan started more or less from scratch and raised the overall standards for players to get into his Fiji teams, whereas when Gareth Baber came along, more local players had a better idea of fitness and nutrition, restarts, the rules etc.
To his credit, Gareth Baber unearthed new talent and built up a squad of young players to compliment the old heads that he has carefully managed through transition to life after the Fiji 7s team on the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series.
In fact, Fiji owes both Coaches – Baber and Ryan a big vinaka vakalevu for how they have steered the crazy talent in this country into such a positive force and style of sevens that is unique to Fiji on the field, all over the world, for millions of television viewers to discover and enjoy.
GO FIJI GO.
– Culden Kamea