The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan is about two months away and Flying Fijians coach John McKee has a plateful deciding who will make the final squad to the Land of the Rising Sun plus the team to face the Maori All Blacks on Saturday in Suva.
The key position of flyhalf has been assigned to the incumbent Ben Volavola with newcomer Alifereti Veitokani. The 1999 version comes to mind with coach Brad Johnstone playing the steady Nicky Little in the first half before letting versatile Waisale Serevi create havoc in the attack in the last 40 minutes with the backs taking over the game.
The similarities are many with Volavola able to steady the ship in the first half and Veitokani coming in later to dictate terms with able centres Jale Vatubua, Semi Radradra, Lepani Botia and Sefanaia Galala loosening the grip of the opposition.
The laying out of the spread of the focus on every aspect of defence and attack has been conspired by McKee in the camp which started on July 1 is a breath of fresh air with the squad brimming with eagerness and deeply entrenched in a professional setup with most.
The abundance of wingers who can finish of movements in the middle speaks of the athleticism naturally gifted to the Fijian build and hardships faced through infancy to overcome any hurdles faced.
Josua Tuisova, Filipe Nakosi, Vereniki Goneva, Patrick Osborne, Eroni Sau and Waisea Nayacalevu speaks terror in the opposition whether we are talking Top 14 French club, Super Rugby or the IRB sevens circuit.
Delivery from the scrums with incumbent Frank Lomani has to keep on proving himself with the 2015 livewire Nikola Matawalu and others, Henri Seniloli and Serupepeli Vularika breathing down his neck.
Kini Murimurivalu and Setareki Tuicuvu have proven through the years in the white strips and the Top 14 clubs week in week out that they are steady with defence in the back and can create scorching runs from the back.
The abundance of the front row with the experienced Campese Ma’afu, Peni Ravai, Manasa Saulo, Leeroy Atalifo and Kalivate Tawake getting strong challenges from homegrown Eroni Mawi, Luke Tagi and Joeli Veitayaki.
Experienced rakes Samuel Matavesi will have a hard time keeping his position with locals Mesulame Dolokoto and Tuvere Vugakoto giving him stiff competition.
Locks Leone Nakarawa, Tevita Cavubati, Api Ratuniyarawa, Tevita Ratuva and Albert Tuisue are depth that Fiji only dreamed about in previous world cups.
The back row positions with Viliame Mata and Peceli Yato eying the number eight berth have equal capabilities in dual roles including skipper Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Semi Kunatani, Nemani Nagusa and local players Johny Dyer and Mosese Voka.
The signs are ripe for a good outing against the Maori who have been visiting the country since 1938. The good showing in that first Maori tour opened the doors for the first Fijian victorious tour in 1939 sparking capacity crowds in the parks that hardly were occupied prior.
The results against a strong Maori encounter at the ANZ stadium in Suva will be a forecast of the capability of this team to go beyond the 1987 and 2007 RWC standard or will be a repeat of 2015, staying within the safety of the status quo.
McKee will be wracking his brains whether to stay in check or throw caution to the wind and try new things that the rugby world hasn’t seen before. One way or the other, he will reap the consequences.