x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Coach Serevi loses power struggle with Fiji board

As the game's elite enter the final throes of preparation for March's World Cup Sevens, Fiji's Melrose Cup defence is in disarray after their iconic coach, Waisale Serevi, was ousted from power.

DUBAI // As the game's elite enter the final throes of preparation for March's World Cup Sevens, Fiji's Melrose Cup defence is in disarray after their iconic coach, Waisale Serevi, was ousted from power. The move by Fiji Rugby Union (FRU), which comes five weeks before the tournament kicks off at The Sevens, Dubai, has prompted outrage in Fiji. Special operations police officers were reportedly deployed outside the FRU headquarters after threats were made to burn the building down.

A former Fijian sports minister, Rajesh Singh, also urged disaffected fans to march on the streets of the capital Suva, and called for the removal of the FRU chairman Keni Dakuidreketi. Serevi, who led the Fijians to two World Cup wins as captain, is worshipped in a country where sevens is a symbol of national identity. His relationship with the FRU, which has always been terse, quickly soured after his recall.

He was frustrated first when they blocked his return to the playing field, demanding he concentrate solely on coaching. After that inauspicious start, he has clashed constantly with the selection panel over the make up of his squad. He asked that Rupeni Caucaunibuca, another great enigmatic crowd-pleaser, be considered but it was ignored. Wwhen he criticised them over the side for the next leg of the International Rugby Board Series, in Wellington - saying "I don't know what went through the selectors' minds" - he was forced to pay with his job.

"I was expecting it, we couldn't see eye-to-eye on simple issues," he said. pradley@thenational.ae