National coach Ilivasi Tabua said yesterday even though he was facing a lot of flak from the side’s dismal performance in the Pacific Nations Cup competition he knew what he was getting into when he took up the job a year ago.
“Fiji is a rugby mad nation and when things are going well everyone is behind you but when things go wrong you face the brunt of their wrath,” he said referring to the rugby fans in the country.
The team started well defeating Samoa in their first match of the PNC but was placed fourth overall after the competition losing three matches against the New Zealand Maoris, Australia A and Tonga, winning one more against Japan.
The Wainibuka native had been thrust into the position after predecessor New Zealander Wayne Pivac resigned and left the country a few months away from the Rugby World Cup after preparing the squad for three years.
Tabua stepped into the fray, selected a squad and had a month long camp before heading off to France where the team brushed aside critisism and won a quarterfinal berth after an upset win over Wales in their last pool match.
The side lost 20-37 to eventual winners South Africa in the quarterfinal returning home as heroes emulating the feat by the national side coached by Jo Sovau in the inaugural championship in Australia and New Zealand in 1987.
“It’s not an easy job; you lose a lot of sleep but I have a job to do and I believe I can take Fiji to its rightful place in the world,” Tabua said.
Caption: National coach leads the team during the Rugby World Cup in France last year