‘Running straight into the defense’: Fijian Drua ‘too predictable’ says Boivert

A former Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) coaching director Frank Boivert believes the Fijian Drua team has become too predictable.

A former Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) coaching director Frank Boivert believes the Fijian Drua team has become too predictable.

Boivert, who coached the American national women’s team to two world cups and led the rugby program at the University of the South Pacific in Suva in the 90’s, said this has seen the Drua attacks nullified early by most Super Rugby Pacific teams they have faced so far.

The Frenchman said it is now time for the Drua team to return to utilising the Fijian flair and get key players like their scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback involved in a lot more ‘creative plays’.

“A basic of rugby is to keep the defense guessing. If your attack is predictable it will make the job very easy for the defense,” he told RNZ Pacific.

He said if the scrumhalf runs the ball from ruck situations or use the blindside, they will attract defenders or watchdogs, who they can commit before releasing to support players who can hit the holes and create overlaps.

“It seems to me that the Drua team are just too predictable by running straight into the defense, instead of using the formidable weapon of Fijians, that is the inside step and the offload in the space,” he said.

“What has been happening in the recent matches against the Hurricanes and the Western Force is basically the receiver runs and hits the defensive wall and is then gang tackled by the opposition. He then gets penalised for holding on.”

Basic mistakes identified

Boivert said another critical mistake that the Drua ball carriers are committing is going straight to the ground when they hit the defense wall and not standing on their feet to keep driving forward.

He said the team should avoid the rucks unless it is “really necessary for them to do that”.

The other option is for them to get the ball straight out if there is a set-up on the ground.

Frank Boivert

“When I was with Nadroga we were avoiding the rucks at all cost as for us a ruck was an accident of the game, like we say in France,” he said.

He had also assisted Nadroga Rugby in the Fiji competition for years.

“So, we were playing on our feet and not ‘davo’ or going to ground, like unfortunately most teams do now in Fiji. To come back to the ruck game, that is so predictable, the defenses are just too well organized.”

He said the Drua halfbacks or scrum-halves should take a leaf out of French halfback French halfback Antoine Dupont.

“He takes a few step just to hold the watchdog and then passes the ball, respecting the basic of rugby that we teach all our players, that is you must first fix a defender before passing the ball,” he said.

“The Fijian scrumhalf are just too stereotyped. They just pass and pass the ball.

“They should run and always challenging the fringes. And they must run with the ball on the blindside.”

Boivert said one of the biggest weapon that the team is not using is the counter-attacking game.

He believes winger Selesitino Ravutaumada would be better off at fullback so he can start counter-attacks from kicked balls.

But the counter-attacker must know where to run and not run away from support players.

“The player receiving the ball needs to know where the space is and where are his teammates.

“Fijian players are fantastic counter-attackers and therefore the team must capitalize on that and use those fantastic qualities.”

He said on defense the players must be able to read when there is a likely overlap situation and defend accordingly.

He highlighted the first Western Force try last week in Perth, where winger Chase Tiatia scored the team’s opening try within the three minutes mark.

“Those Drua players have no idea how to play defense. They don’t recognize when there is an overlap,” he said.

“The players in that play did not play inside-out defense but instead went to the ball carrier because they were staying square and not playing inside-out, where they are turned towards the likely overlap player.

“And another big issue is that the last Drua defender does not stay on the last attacking player, not marking his man.”

He said the Drua team can record a win against the Reds if they improve on the mistakes he has identified.

Boivert applauded the team’s scrums, adding it is a platform that they should also use to gain advantage, with the number eight tasked to make play by picking from the base of the scrums after the second scrum push.

“When they go for a second push that will commit the opposition’s loose forwards, who will not be able to run so the number eight can hit the advantage line with the ball and set up attacks from that,” he added.

Mick Bryne during the Fijian Drua v Western Force captain's run in Perth. May 2024

No more slip-ups

Meanwhile, Fijian Drua head coach Mick Byrne told the media on Tuesday the team had a slip-up against the Force and now needs to win their remaining three matches to stay in the hunt for a top eight finish.

That, he said, needs to start with the Reds in Suva on Saturday.

“What we know about a full team competition top eight, you can have a couple of slipups,” Byrne said.

“We’ve had our slipups and can’t have any more. So last Saturday was a slip up and we still survived and we’re still in the eighth.

“We win our next three and we keep winning we will be okay, so you just got to be careful. We’re at eight and it’s totally in our control. As I say the destiny is in our hands, we just got to keep winning.”

Byrne said the Reds will be tough to beat.

The visitors will be without top number eight David Wilson, who is injured.

“They are a good side, they’ve their physical side there, their defense is very good, they come hard at you,” he said.

“And they put a lot of pressure on the ball and the breakdowns, both in the air and on the ground. We just need to, if we’re going to get our game going, we’re going to have to be very physical around our breakdowns and we’re going to have to look after the ball.

“And we’ll get quick balls and we’ll move around and we’ll try and move the Reds pack around the field.”

Iosefo Masi attacks for the Fijian Drua against Moana Pasifika with support from Peni Matawalu in Lautoka on Saturday, April 27, 2024. Photo: Fijian Drua

‘Angry men in camp’

Byrne said the return trip from Perth to Nadi earlier this week was a long one, but it gave players the opportunity to review their game.

He said they have focused on the Reds’ game and will be ready for the battle.

“We just got to make sure that we are ready to play what whatever team the Reds bring here, and they’re going to be physical and we know that so I’m looking forward to that clash,” he said.

“Very disappointing on Monday, but it was a long travel back from Perth, we’re up at 4.30am in the morning over there.

“And we’re on the plane till we got here at nine o’clock at night. When we got here on Monday, there was good honest conversation amongst the group and while it’s disappointing what happened Saturday night, the biggest judgement will come on how we respond.

“There’s some angry men in the camp. I think we’ll turn up on Saturday and respond.”

Drua needs a win to consolidate their eighth position.

If they lose and Western Force wins then the Perth based team will jump to number eight and Drua drop to ninth.

That is not what Byrne wants to see because he understands the tougher challenge that they will face if they do fall into that situation.

The Fijian Drua vs Reds game kicks off at 2.05pm (Fiji and New Zealand time) on Saturday.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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