Toa Samoa coach Ben Gardiner believes there’ll be long-term gain to come from the pain of his side’s underwhelming Pacific Championships campaign.
A 50-0 hammering by New Zealand in Auckland, which followed a 38-12 loss to Australia a week prior, marked a disappointing outcome for the island nation as they crashed out of the competition a year on from their historic run to the World Cup final.
But with just four players from that game being available to him for both Pacific Championships Tests this month, Gardiner said 2023 was a rebuilding phase which Samoa will see the benefit of in years to come.
“We would have liked a different result [against the Kiwis] and we would have liked a different result last week, but as I said to the boys, we’re here to prepare to learn how to win Test matches,” Gardiner said.
“We had some guys young guys last week that really thrived and [against New Zealand] they played well but it wasn’t as good as what it was last week.
“We’re going to have some guys that go back to the NRL as better players.
“We need to be able to step back now look at what we’ve done and take the experience that we’ve been able to build and come back together for a camp, however long it takes for that camp to come around, and be better again next time.
“We built real professionalism in the way we’re approaching the games… we just need to tie some things up around our footy game and also build some experience within our squad.”
Despite the ugly defeat to the Kiwis, which saw his side give up 12 line breaks and miss 57 tackles, Samoa captain Junior Paulo said it was a proud moment to lead his side out in front of a largely Samoa-leaning crowd at Eden Park.
“These are the scenes, despite the scoreboard, this is everything to us as Samoans,” Paulo said.
2Our people are always going to be proud no matter what.
“It means everything [to captain this side]… a lot of these guys are only 21 or 22, so Samoa is only going to e better in years to come”.”