THREE Fijians have had their names etched on the BBC's 2007 Rugby World Cup dream team.
After a jittery start, wing Vilimone Delasau and centre Seru Rabeni rose to the occasion against Wales and South Africa turning heads and getting the nod from BBC's top rugby pundits.
Blindside flanker Akapusi Qera is the third Fiji player named alongside some of the world's finest in England's Jason Robinson, Springbok trio Bryan Habana, Victor Matfield, Fourie Du Preez and England's Andy Sheridan.
Tongan Nili Latu was voted the best Openside flanker while there were special mentions for flyhalf Nicky Little, lock Ifereimi Rawaqa and halfback Mosese Rauluni. The make-up of the dream 15 has five Argentines, three South Africans, three Englishmen, three Fijians, one Tongan, and not a single All Black and Wallaby.
Surprisingly, following Australia and New Zealand's early exit, the mainstream media in the two countries seem to have forgotten about their selection of the top 15 unlike the past RWC's. Flying Fijians manager, Pio Bosco Tikoisuva, said it was an achievement everyone should be proud of.
"On the same token, the entire team should take credit for that," Tikoisuva said. "It was a complete team-effort. Everyone gave the best of their ability and in doing so helped these individuals to shine."
Rabeni and Delasau came through the grades in the abbreviated code - a point Fiji sevens coach Josateki Savou yesterday highlighted for budding stars of the game. "It shows that sevens has the potential to groom world class players," Savou said.
"Players vying for selection in the sevens code always have a lot more to play for. "They can use sevens rugby as a platform to make it big in fifteens particularly at the world stage." The make-up of the Dream 15 has five Argentines, three South Africans, three Englishmen, three Fijians, one Tongan, and not a single All Black and Wallaby.
Surprisingly, following Australia and New Zealand's early exit, the mainstream media in the two countries seem to have forgotten about their selection of the top 15 unlike the past RWC's.
BBC's Dream Team:
15 Jason Robinson (England) - One of England's few genuine world-class players at the outset can be pleased with his farewell to Test rugby, despite the pain of being forced off injured in the final. A stirring one-man show in the battering by the Boks was followed by dazzling interventions in the shock victories over Australia and France. The game will be poorer without "Billy Whizz ". Honourable mentions: Chris Latham (Australia), Percy Montgomery (South Africa), Ignacio Corleto (Argentina).
14 Vilimoni Delasau (Fiji) - In a good tournament for wingers, the Clermont Auvergne player just about held off some strong competition, notably France's own impish predator Vincent Clerc. But Delasau epitomised the attacking flair that took Fiji through to the quarter-finals with that thrilling victory over Wales, entertaining the crowds with his lightning forays down the flank. Honourable mentions: Vincent Clerc (France), Drew Mitchell (Australia), Paul Sackey (England)
13 Seru Rabeni (Fiji) - A position where the main contenders beforehand - Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll, France's Yannick Jauzion, Australia's Stirling Mortlock - failed to quite hit the heights despite the odd flashes. The dreadlocked Rabeni on the other hand was an inspirational figure in knocking out Wales and giving South Africa a quarter-final fright. Power and panache. Honourable mentions: Stirling Mortlock (Australia), Jacque Fourie (SA), Tom Shanklin (Wales)
12 Felipe Contepomi (Argentina) - A guiding light in the Pumas' run to the semi-finals, providing flashes of brilliance with ball in hand, a reassuring presence with the boot, landing most of his kicks at goal, and a fiery attitude in everything else he did. Not at his best against Ireland, but his Leinster team-mates still won't thank him for helping knock out his adopted country. Honourable mentions: Luke McAlister (New Zealand), Francois Steyn (South Africa)
11 Bryan Habana (South Africa) - Who else? Began with four tries against Samoa, including one scintillating solo effort, and finished as the World Cup's leading try-scorer with eight, equalling Jonah Lomu's tournament record. Awesome pace matched by speed of thought and eye for a gap; showed in the final he can do the dirty work as well. Pure box office, now a world champion. Honourable mentions: Chris Paterson (Scotland - 100% with the boot), Shane Williams (Wales)
10 Juan Martin Hernandez (Argentina) - "El Mago" (The Magician) was also labelled "the Maradona of rugby" and certainly revelled in being handed the responsibility of directing operations for the Pumas after his switch from full-back. Booming high kicks and touch finders mixed with sublime touch, balance and bravery. Not great in the semis, but still a star turn.
Honourable mentions: Jonny Wilkinson (England), Pierre Hola (Tonga), Nicky Little (Fiji)
9 Fourie Du Preez (South Africa) - The class act in a strong field, in which Andy Gomarsall enjoyed a stirring renaissance. Du Preez announced himself with a man-of-the-match display against England in the pool stages. Lightning pass, strong kicking game, darting breaks and alert brain, invariably making the right decisions at the right time. Fulcrum of the new world champions. Honourable mentions: Andy Gomarsall (England), Agustin Pichot (Argentina), Mosese Raulini (Fiji)
1 Andrew Sheridan (England) - The cornerstone of an England pack that dragged the defending champions from pool stragglers to surprise finalists, giving a career-defining performance in the quarter-final victory over Australia with some formidably destructive scrummaging and barnstorming charges with ball in hand. No tight-head will enjoy facing him from now on.
Honourable mention: Rodrigo Roncero (Argentina - the other outstanding prop in the World Cup)
2 Mario Ledesma (Argentina) - One of the Pumas' most experienced campaigners, the balding 34-year-old hooker was the spearhead of an Argentine pack that barely took a backward step from start to finish. Formidable in the set-piece and inspirational in the loose, his all-round contribution offered more than the man who eventually lifted the World Cup.
Honourable mention: John Smit (South Africa)
3 Martin Scelzo (Argentina) - The other member of an outstanding Pumas front row that had the edge on all their opponents at scrum-time and kept the tournament's shock troops on the front foot throughout with some sterling driving work and tireless defence around the rucks. Carl Hayman can still claim to be the world's premier tight-head, but his impact was not as great. Honourable mentions Carl Hayman (New Zealand), Matt Stevens (England)
4 Simon Shaw (England) - A close call this one, and difficult to leave out Bakkies Botha, the Springbok who has added a skilful dimension to his hard-nosed aggression. But England's gentle giant, finally playing in a World Cup at the fourth attempt, enjoyed an outstanding tournament, producing an array of fine touches with ball in hand to go with the donkey work around the field. Honourable mentions: Bakkies Botha (South Africa), Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia)
5 Victor Matfield (South Africa) - Underlined his status as the best lock in the world with a man-of-the-match display in the final, where his line-out dominance was something to behold. Head and shoulders above the rest, quite literally at times, the 30-year-old provided a crucial leadership cog in a Springboks pack that came up with the answers when required. Deserved his winners medal. Honourable mentions: Ifereimi Rawaqa (Fiji), Patricio Albacete (Argentina)
6 Akapusi Qera (Fiji) - Gloucester fans are in for a treat if the dynamic contribution of Qera to the Pacific Islanders' run to the quarter-finals is anything to go by. The big boys all came to the party - Schalk Burger was the pedigree choice, if not always brilliant, Jerry Collins showed flair to go with the brawn - but the pace and power of the 23-year-old Qera was quite something. Honourable mentions: Schalk Burger (South Africa), Jerry Collins (NZ), Serge Betsen (France)
7 Nili Latu (Tonga) - Another highly competitive area, where France found a new back-row star in Thierry Dusautoir, and Juan Smith put in a fair shift for the Springboks. But the bald head of the Tongan captain Latu was always in the thick of the action with his support play, ball-handling and work at the breakdown, playing through injury at times in a superb tournament for his country. Honourable mentions: Thierry Dusautoir (France) , Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina), Juan Smith (SA)
8 Gonzalo Longo (Argentina) - A position where you could make strong arguments for the formidably committed and coiffeured Finau Maka and the athletic Julien Bonnaire - the closest the hosts came to getting a player in this team. But Longo, after taking over from Juan Manuel Leguizamon at number eight, was a key part of a rampaging Pumas back-row in both attack and defence. Honourable mentions: Finau Maka (Tonga), Julien Bonnaire (France), Vasco Uva (Portugal).
Adapted from Fijitimes.com - October 25th, 2007