Rugby in Fiji - The Full Experience
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 @ 10:00am
My time playing here has been really interesting and a huge growing process. They play a rough game here balanced with fantastic backyard sevens style passing. The lineout calls are really intricate- every man is a jumper and a lifters and every call has 3-4 moving parts. The scrummaging, however is weak. I'm positive the NSRFC pack would win quite a few scrums over here.
One funny experience was at my first practice- we had a full team scrimmage. They were near the end of their preseason (in March) whereas I was just coming out of an offseason and all the moving transitions (hence not ready for rugby). The first several plays their largest players changed directions entirely to crash right at me. The first guy I smacked hard and jarred the ball loose, and I got the second guy down quickly as well. Full of adrenaline I thought "I can dominate here". My foreigner's luck wore off quickly. I tried to play the style coach Dan always advocated- flankers running wide with the ball every play, on offense and on defence. Because the ball movement is so fast here, and because they tend to put together 10+ phases consistently, after five minutes I was completely gassed and had to play out on the wing for the rest of the scrimmage. In addition, my passing and handling was hideous compared to even the least coordinated player on the team. Afterwards I got a long lecture from the coach and was told that I need to work on my passing, my body position, I need to lose weight and gain muscle- basically I needed to improve everything. As the season went on I improved and got more and more playing opportunities.
The biggest change I had to make was to run less- they split the forwards on the strong and weak side of the field, and use pods to create time for the backs to move across the field as necessary. During games I'd often get rebuked for running too much- instead the focus was on maintaining your position for when the ball swung back your side, on being there for the pods and rucks, and letting the backs do most of their own rucking. As a result, we could string together phase after phase without burning out or needing to kick the ball out of bounds. One game we even held the ball for an entire half, aside from a single possession by the other team.
Even though we went undefeated in the regular season, we lost in the first round of the playoffs. It was disappointing, but after a seven month season, I was ready for a break.
- Phil "Preach" Bjork