Fiji Bitter Marist 7s kicks off today!

Russia head coach Waisale Serevi during his team's training run in Suva last Tuesday. Picture: RAMA

IT’S Fiji Bitter Marist Sevens once again and the annual rugby fiesta is getting bigger and better every year.

The tournament has both been the cradle and the crucible of Fijian sevens rugby for the past 43 years.

It’s where one day you are a simple villager rubbing shoulders with internationally reputed players and another year you are a star yourself.

The decision to retain the 64 teams on a first come first served basis gives the tournament a festival type of atmosphere where teams from all over the country take part and the big crowd also follow their teams from all over to support them.

There are more lucrative prizes and free giveaways on offer through more sponsorship from the likes of Pacific Energy compared with the pig carcass and carltons of Fiji Bitter back in the seventies.

The SUNSEVENS was originally a provincial tournament held as a final trial to the only 7s tournament then, the Hong Kong Sevens.

But after it ceased Marist 7s was the main competition the national team was selected from and teams were announced after the final.

Tabadamu and Police are the two consistent 7s teams of recent tournaments and the challenge is for the other teams to beat them.

Waisele Serevi’s Russia will be a very strong side and they are in top match condition.

The only factor against them is the hot sunshine while Ratu Filise, Waimanu, First Light have the combination to come out on top.

However, outsiders have won the tournaments before such as the Yasawa Stingers and other unknown teams could surprise.

The tourney has been a melting pot for different races, rank and creed and promotes lifelong friendship and unforgettable memories.

Just the other day two oldies met at a watering hole in downtown Suva and settled an issue that occurred way back in the 1982 Marist 7s.

One played rover for Airport Nadi and the other a winger for Lelean Old Boys, Suva.

“Hey I always wanted to tell you something about that game we played in Cathedral,” Airport rover said.

“You remember your corner flag try that was disallowed?”

“Yeah, yeah I still remember it vividly as it would have won us the game,” the Lelean winger said. “Maybe it was a try as I was not sure myself after I made that tackle as we rolled over the touch line.”

“Why do you say that?” the Lelean winger asked brightening up.

“Well on my way past the tryline I met the ref, who whispered between his teeth while looking straight ahead, asking me, ‘try or no try’ (sikoa se sega) and I immediately said no,” the Airport rover revealed.

The Lelean winger went into a series of unprintable words about the ref and it did not even calm him down of the news that the ref had long since passed away. “I always knew I scored that try.”

The two men and others around them burst into laughter as they reminisced about their playing days.

Rugby has risen to unprecedented heights in Fiji now that they have the World Rugby Pacific Combine program, creating a straight pathway for Pacific Island players into the world of professionalism.

Events like the Marist 7s helps in grassroots development. Rugby development should now be considered lifetime investment in families and villages as the rugby world seeks more raw talent from Fijians in both codes of rugby union and rugby league.

The Kacau Knights rugby team from Gau have taken a giant step into developing their 7s rugby players and would be one of the teams in the Marist 7s this weekend.

World Rugby Pacific Combine Program, who owns the Pacific Combine team, selected 14 players from the recent World Rugby Pacific challenge Cup won by Fiji.

The players will be groomed to meet the demands of overseas professional clubs looking for players.

Stay with us today as we bring to you updates from the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

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