Fiji are winless after two games of the World Cup but have added the Wallabies to their list of admirers following a physical clash in Cardiff.
With just a five-day turnaround following a similarly tough tournament-opening loss to England at Twickenham, Fiji had been expected to wilt the longer the contest went on.
Instead, they finished the stronger in their clash with Australia on Wednesday and left Michael Cheika’s men battered, bruised and begging for the ice baths.
“It was tough. It was what we expected – a very physical, abrasive contest,” No.10 Bernard Foley said.
“The Fijians really gave it to us.”
While the Wallabies left with the four points on offer for the win, the Flying Fijians won the hearts of many of the 67,253 in attendance at Millennium Stadium for their courage.
“The effort was amazing to back up,” said Fiji coach John McKee.
“It’s very hard to play England and then Australia in five days in such high-intensity Test matches.
“Credit to our players the way they played tonight.”
McKee refused to put the loss down their punishing schedule – and wasn’t keen to delve into whether it provided a fair tournament.
“That’s the competition,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or unfair, that’s the way the competition was set up.”
McKee said his team arrived buoyed by the belief they could upset the world’s No.2-ranked team.
And they had every right to be proud of the fact the winning margin of 15 points was the closest between the two nations since 1984.
“They’re a quality side and I think we gave them the respect they deserved,” said Australia’s two-try flanker David Pocock.
“I was really impressed by them backing up four days after their opening game against England.”
Fiji’s goal is to not be regarded as a tier-two nation – to be able to travel to take on the likes of Australia, New Zealand and England as equals.
McKee said despite coming away with nothing to show for their efforts in the opening week of the World Cup, they were slowly changing Fiji’s reputation on a global scale: no longer viewed as the lovable entertainers, rather as a genuine threat on the rise.
“That’s our aim. These things don’t happen overnight, but we are heading in the right direction,” he said.