For any teams seeking inspiration in how to play outstanding rugby sevens, a trip to Fiji, home of the Olympic gold medallists and HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 runners-up, is not a bad place to start.
Spain thought so ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and Chile, coached by the experienced Edmundo Olfos (pictured below), have followed their lead by taking themselves to the land best-known for its sevens prowess for a week-long preparation camp ahead of their participation in Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco next month.
“Through our National Olympic Committee, we had funding for an RWC Sevens preparation camp overseas and rather than go to the USA, we decided to go to Fiji,” explains Olfos, who enjoys a close relationship with Fiji men's sevens coach Gareth Baber. Olfos also discussed the idea with Pablo Feijoó, the current Spanish coach who went to Fiji as a player before Rio 2016.
Chile's stated goal is to have a crash course in what makes Fiji the team they are, not only through their performances but also culturally.
“I am very interested in finding out how Fiji sevens work around their defence and how they attack the defence at speed, passing the ball with that almost unnatural blend of basketball and handball, and how the communication between each other works in all of this," explains Olfos.
“The cultural side is very important for me too. I want to understand how they work with a much simpler life. Sometimes, living in a metropolis makes life harder. We have a good culture within the sevens team because we’ve worked together for so long, but we need to culturally learn from them, not only in sevens but for 15s and maybe then share what we learnt with other sports in my country.
Rituals and culture
“Chile is a multicultural country that lacks rituals and what we can learn in Fiji can be very positive in the long run, even beyond sport.”
Another aspect top of Olfos’ agenda is Fiji's fitness regime and what tips can be picked up. At this point, it is unclear whether his team will be subjected to training at the infamous Sigatoka sand dunes.
“I am totally open to stimulus and planning, but we need to look at the real benefits. We have no scientific background on how good they (the dunes) can be, but we’ll listen to the locals. They have a totally different fitness programme and facilities and what works for them might not work for us.
“We actually have very good dunes on our coast, but we haven’t used them before because of the lack of scientific information. If they are good for us, we’ll certainly make the move.”
Chile recently won the Juegos Sudamericanos Odesur in Bolivia and, as a result, qualified for next year’s Pan American Games in Lima. With a team that has been working tirelessly for the past couple of years, the goal in Rugby World Cup Sevens is to advance to the round of 16, although a rapidly-improving Ireland team stands in their way in the first round.
“I can’t look beyond them. They've have had two good tournaments in London and Paris,” says Olfos. “All our focus is on the Irish and it was good that we've now had those two tournaments to analyse them. Having said that, we did train with them in Munich and Punta del Este in the last few months, so we know each other a fair bit.”
Main photo: Oscar Muñoz Badilla
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