Appointment of local coach concerns overseas Fijians
by Lusi Banueve in Suva
November 15, 1999
Fiji's overseas based players are reluctant to return and play for the country if the man to replace current coach Brad Johnstone is a local.
Amongst the many who have aired their reservations is prop Daniel Rouse.
Rouse said that his availability to play for Fiji will depend entirely on the replacement for Johnstone, which will be announced after the National Team Board meets this week.
"I've held numerous discussions with the guys in the team and the feeling amongst everyone is the same, we need an expatriate coach that will be able to carry on from where Brad left," Rouse said.
The prop believes that there is no capable local to replace former All Black Johnstone whose contract expires in December. "Right now, I don't think there can be a replacement for him (Johnstone). Maybe in later years there could be someone, but right now there is no one that will be able to carry on because besides Brad I don't think anyone has the exposure to understand Super 12 and overseas level of games," he said.
"For me the future will depend a lot on the replacement of Brad," he added. Rouse said that Johnstone had done much for Fiji and this should not be forgotten by rugby administrators and critics who have called for a local to replace the no nonsense coach.
"Brad has done a lot and we must not forget that. He has taught Fiji rugby a lot and the FRFU need to see into all this before they appoint the replacement," Rouse said.
"Not just any expatriate should come and replace him (Brad) but someone with the experience and expertise and one who is on the same level as Brad," he added.
Rouse said that captain Greg Smith was also very concerned with a local taking Johnstone's place.
"Greg has aired this time and again because we know that things might just go back to square one and everything that Brad has brought here might just go down the drain if we let things go from here beginning with a replacement for Brad," he said.
However National sevens manager Epeli Lagiloa has disagreed, saying that if given the chance a local coach will also be able to prove that there is capability on the local scene.
"If the monetary gains are good, I'm sure that a local will be able to deliver the goods just like Johnstone did," he said. "I don't think it's fair that people are underestimating the talents and capabilities of a local," Lagiloa said.
Johnstone, in the meantime, is to return to New Zealand in December and will come back to help the national side prepare for the 2000 Epson Pacific Rim Championship, which begins in May.