WELLINGTON, 13 Sept. – Fiji are at their most dangerous when they are having fun.
While other teams strive to keep it tight in a pre-ordained game plan, Fiji like their rugby fast and loose, which also suits their strength, exceptional handling skills and athleticism.
“(Fijian) is the only style we can play,” said fly half Nicky Little.
“We try and put a lid on it sometimes and maybe we win or we don’t win, but the boys don’t enjoy it and the last 15 years I’ve been with the team I’d rather see the boys enjoy it.”
The fun also extends to training, although it is no joke.
“We’re making mistakes and are giggling, but there’s an edge to it and we’re hard on each other,” said Little.
“But when someone does something silly, it’s fun. If you don’t enjoy your day today (or) tomorrow, when can you?” said Little, who celebrated his 35th birthday on Tuesday and was the subject of some good-natured ribbing from players wishing him “happy 38th”, “happy 40th” and the like.
Fiji captain Deacon Manu said the team were a close-knit bunch.
“We always meet every night for a church service and a prayer in song, so you know that brings us closer together, not just physically and mentally, but spiritually as well.”
Fiji face South Africa on Saturday at Wellington Regional Stadium in their second Pool D encounter of Rugby World Cup 2011. Fiji won their first match against Namibia 49-25 while South Africa held out Wales 17-16.
Coach Samuela Domoni said the match against Namibia was good preparation for playing the world champion Springboks as both teams have a physical approach.
Bump your head
“They pretty much mirror each other but in a different way, so for us to play against Namibia was a good lead-up to this game,” said Domoni.
Fiji almost caused the upset of Rugby World Cup 2007, leading South Africa in their quarter-final until the Springboks pulled the match out of the fire, 37-20. This time around South Africa are taking no chances.
“As seen in the last World Cup in 2007, when you look too far ahead you bump your head at the next step and actually go two or three steps back,” Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis said on Tuesday.
The Springboks go into Saturday’s match without injured second rows Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, but Manu says they will still be a force.
“The people that are there at the moment are fantastic players and they could lose probably their whole side and still field a team that would beat many international sides,” he said.