Veteran Levani Botia's breakdown work was one of the major reasons for Fiji to end their 69-year wait to beat Australia, according to coach Simon Raiwalui
Saint-Étienne (France) (AFP) - Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui paid tribute to his “jackals” after the Pacific Island nation claimed their first win over Australia since 1954 in a World Cup thriller on Sunday.
Centre Josua Tuisova scored a try and was man-of-the-match in the 22-15 Pool C victory but veteran flanker Levani Botia was also crucial in Fiji winning 11 turnovers and forcing Australia to concede 18 penalties in Saint Etienne.
“Obviously Australia’s got those strike weapons … so getting them to ground early and getting our jackals in there, Levani’s world class,” said Raiwalui.
“He’s obviously done it in the top level of Europe, he’s done it for Fiji for a long time, he’s very hard over the ball and very good at getting those steals.
“And Josh (Tuisova), he’s very good as well.”
It was a vital victory for Fiji whose hopes of reaching the knock-out stages would have all but ended with a defeat after they narrowly lost their pool opener to Wales a week ago.
While Australia’s players spoke about Fiji’s flair in the build up to the game, this victory was secured more through breakdown dominance than anything else. Australia actually outscored Fiji by two tries to one.
Raiwalui said this was a new Fiji that can combine forward steel with extravagant three-quarter play.
“We wanted to change who we are, our identity, what we stood for,” said the New Zealand-born former Fiji lock.
“We have traditional areas where those Tier 1 teams, developed nations attack us and we think those are the areas that we’ve really improved in.”
Rather than a “bunch of talented individuals,” Raiwalui said this Fiji is a “team of talented players.”
- Win about ‘staying alive’ -
Asked if this victory – a first over Australia in 69 years and only a third in 23 Tests – would send a message to Tier 1 nations that Fiji deserve to be invited to take part in the Rugby Championship, Raiwalui said he just wanted to savour the moment.
“I’m always about being included in those sort of competitions but today wasn’t about that, today was about us winning this game and staying alive in the tournament. We’ve had that mindset from the beginning.
“We want to be involved in those things but today is about today.”
If Wales beat Australia next weekend, then Fiji would qualify for the quarter-finals by winning their two remaining pool matches against Georgia – who beat them in Japan four years ago – and Portugal.
But Raiwalui denied he would be supporting the Welsh.
“We’ve got our foot in the door, that’s all we can ask,” said the coach.
“We’ll watch the game, obviously it’s out of our control, it will just be good to put our feet up and watch the game and see how it goes.
“We’ll do the equations and what we have to do. We just have to continue with our preparation and our performance and look after what we can look after, control our controllables.”