Fiji began the 2015/16 rugby sevens season by winning the opening leg of the Series at The Sevens. They followed that up with two more leg wins on their way to sealing back-to-back Series crowns.
They capped off the season by being crowned Olympic champions, but the man who replaced Ben Ryan feels his players’ humble and grounded attitudes will ensure their feet don’t get too far off the ground.
“There’s a change in leadership but motivation is intrinsic,” said Cawanibuka at the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens official press conference.
“For the players it’s inside of them. We have a rich history of Fiji sevens, which gives them an added pressure to perform to the expectations of our people. We have a large pool of players underneath the team, so complacency is something the boys have to be really careful about.
“For every player it could be their last tournament, we always tell them that. Underneath this team there are six or seven guys fighting for that jersey. There’s a legacy behind the Fiji sevens and that’s what I feel helps the team perform.”
Cawanibuka recalled how an already strong bond with the Fiji people was strengthened when the team’s heroes returned to the tiny Pacific Ocean island following their Rio triumph – six months after the devastation of Cyclone Winston which killed 44 people and rendered tens of thousands homeless.
“The gold medal was massive but it didn’t actually sink in until we reached Fiji,” said Cawanibuka. “Being there at (ANZ National Stadium) in Suva with thousands of people, the images of the cyclone that hit us back in early February came back.
“It broke big men down into tears, it was surreal, and a moment we’ll treasure forever. We’re the first rugby sevens team to win a gold medal, it’s something that we’ll always cherish and an experience we’ll never forget.”
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