End of an Era

Image Credit: World Rugby

Coach Gareth Baber has officially left his post as Fiji Sevens coach. Fiji Rugby revealed Baber will not renew his contract and will pursue a career in the 15 man game.

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Time does fly, it only seems like yesterday the Welshman and former Hong Kong 7’s coach was revealed as the man to take over from Ben Ryan. He copped a lot of criticism in his earlier days as coach and to be fair he still had his doubters up until he delivered on what seems like the only thing that mattered to a lot of people. The truth is he achieved a whole lot more as the head coach and the Gold Medal was just the icing on the cake.

In his time as the National Coach he won more tournaments than any coach before him. A total of 11 starting with his maiden trophy in Hong Kong, his first as a head coach and was Fiji’s third year in a row as Hong Kong Champions. Fiji would eventually win 5 in a row at the showpiece tournament, the final 3 with him at the helm.

In the 2017/2018 series he led Fiji to win half of the Series tournaments including 4 in a row starting in Vancouver, then Hong Kong before Singapore and finally London. Fiji won more tournaments then eventual winners South Africa who only won 2 but were narrowly ahead in the final tally.

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2018/2019 saw him take Fiji to the Series title. Fiji matched the previous years tournament wins by recording another 5 but this time being more consistent throughout the season. This would be his final full season in charge on the side.

The next year was cut short due to the Covid Pandemic but he did manage to record Fiji’s first victory at the Sydney Sevens.

His crowning glory came in July of 2021 as he guided Fiji to their second Gold Medal in Tokyo. Leading up to the tournament the team were separated from their families for several months as they prepared for the Olympics. Not to mention one of his most experienced players Paula Dranisinukula pulling out of the team for family commitments, then came the axing of one of his best players Sevuloni Mocenacagi.

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Regulars Aminiasi Tuimaba and Vilimoni Botitu took up offers overseas after the Olympics were postponed. Baber and his staff had to move mountains to get them back.

On top of all of this, Gareth himself had not seen his family, who were in Wales, for 6 months.

Baber brought his own methods and implemented his own systems. He revealed after the Olympics that some of his players were underdone but he knew that in certain scenarios he would need that player. He stuck to his guns and it worked. We saw this with Semi Radradra, a star of the game that was being touted as the best player in the world, only brought in as an impact player. No better example then against Argentina where he came on and scored the winning try to get Fiji to the final.

He was brave, picking rookies over seasoned players for the Olympics like Sireli Maqala and Iosefo Masi.

He’s introduced players like Vilimoni Botitu, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Meli Derenalagi, Asaeli Tuivuaka and Alasio Naduva amongst others.

An avid Christian, Baber was right amongst the team and players during prayer and church sessions.

He leaves a man who delivered despite all the pressure that comes with the hotplate that is the Fiji Sevens coaching role. A legend who will always hold a special place in Fijian hearts.

To Gareth Baber, kalougata, kei na vakanuinui vinaka. Godspeed, Godbless, and we wish you the very best on your journey.

2016/20172018/20192019/2020
Hong Kong 7sCape Town 7sSydney Sevens
2017/2018Hamilton 7s
Hamilton 7sHong Kong 7s2021
Vancouver 7sLondon 7sOlympic Gold Medal
Hong Kong 7sParis 7’s
Singapore 7sSeries Win
London 7sCommonwealth Silver Medal
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