PAPUA New Guinea’s rugby sevens side have put the country backback into the International Rugby Board (IRB) world circuit.
The team also qualifyed for next year’s Commonwealth Games in India when PNG finished third at the Pacific Sevens in Pape’ete, Tahiti, over the weekend.
The result also paid dividends on PNG Sevens major sponsor Mineral Resources Development Corporation’s decision to chart a new course for sevens rugby in PNG by recruiting the services of Fijian and world sevens great Waisale Serevi.
Under Serevi’s stewardship, PNG sevens accomplished their first goal and now the future looks promising for PNG’s hopes of re-establishing itself as a strong sevens nation on the world scene.
The side ended the tournament yesterday by thrashing Niue for the plate, and finishing third overall behind Samoa and Tonga. The Tongans also qualified for the sevens circuit with Samoa already an automatic inclusion on the world circuit.
With all hope resting on a top two placing at Tahiti, a 22-0 loss to Niue in the opening match on the first day did not deter the side, as they bounced back on the second day with a 24-0 victory over Vanuatu, a 43-0 thrashing of hosts Tahiti, and close losses to Samoa 19-24 and Tonga 7-12.
The side then thrashed old nemesis Cook Islands on the last round robin game early on the final day, qualifying for the third and fourth place playoff, and plate match against Niue.
Reports from Tahiti, told of a spirited tournament from the side, becoming the toasts of the event with a resurgent performance on the international scene.
PNGRFU’s Billy Rapilla, the current Pukpuk coach, received the news with a lot of praise for the team and its promise.
“Preparation has been a very big part of the performance and achievements of this team.
“The Cook Islands Mini Games build-up, the MRDC Sevens last month and the Gold Coast Sevens last week have truly been a great part of the building and development of the team,” Rapilla said.“MRDC’s involvement and acquiring the services of coach and sevens maestro Waisale Serevi, has paid off, with Serevi achieving his immediate goal of PNGs re-entry onto the IRB circuit.”
PNG has now qualified on merit for the Adelaide Sevens and the Wellington Sevens.
Team Manager Malcolm Giheno told The National from Pape’ete last night that every single player performed beyond the call of duty for the achievement.
“The result here is due to the effort of all players. It was an unbelieveable performance. The work by Serevi on our style of play has given our team a structure that works. Even more, they played out of their skins, to come away with this,” Giheno said.
Giheno made special mention of debutants Sova Milfred, Monty Diave, league import Benjamin John and flyers Bobby Pau, Albert Levi jnr and Kojo Ware.
“These boys stepped up when their teammates needed them.”
The rest of the team is Alex Haija, Lawrence Kuso Jr, Karo Kauna, Gare Ponda, Leo Tikot Jr, and Buckley Joseph.
The team will return during the week, and go straight into preparations for the Carlton Sevens in Sri Lanka from Nov 28-29.