(Berkeley, California) 14 January 1999 -- The path to long-term gain is causing the US 7s program some short-term pain.
The most recent dose came this past week on a 1-5 trip to South America, where the 7s team played in two international tournaments.
At Uruguay's Punta del Este competition the team went 0-3, losing reasonably close games to the South American Barbarians and Chile, before a blowout defeat to Samoa. In Mar del Plata, Argentina, the team fared slightly better, opening with a comfortable win over Spain before a big loss to New Zealand and another narrow decision favored Chile to finish the trip.
"Our shortcomings can be summed up in one word: inexperience," said manager Keith Seaber on Tuesday as the team returned to the USA. "We are working with many young players this year with a view to developing a competitive side long term. The cost is that we must learn some hard lessons as we go.
"Inexperience means breakdowns in positional play, which in turn cause breakdowns in communication, which leads to a breakdown in overall play. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. We need to compete and gradually gain the mental edge we need."
As part of the learning experience, the squad to South America weathered a heavy travel schedule, illness bought on by different food and water, as well as a day's delay to the Mar del Plata tournament (owing to very bad weather). The US eventually returned home well behind schedule.
In Uruguay, the opening match of the tour in Uruguay saw the US evenly matched with the South American Barbarians for much of the game. The all-star opposition was lead by Australian David Campese and starred Fijian wing Marika Vunibaka. The game was tied 12-12 at the half, before the Barbarians pulled away to a 31-12 victory.
Good starts but lack of strong finishes were a theme for the trip. In the second game against Chile, the US scored first and went into the half tied 7-7. But again, the match slipped away in the second period, ending 24-12.
"Another aspect of our inexperience is our inability to deal with adversity on the field," Seaber noted. "We need to learn how to stick with our game plan through thick and thin, which is not as easy as it sounds. When you badly want to win, when the game is close and time is running out, it is tempting to try to make something happen as an individual, but that's not the path to success at the international level."
The final match in Uruguay was a 50-0 loss to a Samoan side that was in top form through out the tournament.
The team notched its first win in Mar del Plata, beating Spain 24-12. While happy for the young players to taste victory, coach Bill Russell was disappointed that the US team did not win by more, believing his team should have been able to put a stranglehold on the game.
Next up, New Zealand who had won in Uruguay and would go on to win the Argentine tournament as well. The US held the Kiwis scoreless for the first few minutes, but once the New Zealanders made some adjustments to their offense, the floodgates opened and the game ended 50-0.
Finally, came a rematch against Chile and another game that started well for the US-tied 7-7 at the half-but one the team could not finish, as Chile edged ahead for a 19-7 win. "The games against Chile were especially disappointing as we were more than capable of winning. As we become more seasoned at the international level, we will be better equipped to do that," noted Seaber, "but we will probably have some more hard lessons along the way."
United States: Aseri Batiratu, Mike Coyner, Brian Hightower, Chris Kron, Willie Mahoni, Arona Paloma, Toshi Paloma, Jeremy Revell, Soane Tau, Mose Timoteo, Don Younger.
Coach: Bill Russell; Manager: Keith Seaber; Physiotherapist: Lisa Gorman.
© USA National Rugby Team
Kurt Oeler, Media Relations
Hudson Rugby Fieldhouse
Berkeley, California 94720 4426
phone 510.643.1971 / fax 510.643.2192