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Rugby scar I left on Rush

September 28
12:00 2008

image Written By : MACIU MALO. Former national 7s rep Penisoni Waki is among the rugged of the Flying Fijians and he has a story to tell to prove it.
His name maybe new to most rugby fans but to some who knew him, the fiery Nawaka native from Nadi will be best remembered for his thumping tackle on Samoan 7s forward Alefaio Vaisuai in the 1993 Hong Kong 7s final where Fiji lost 12-14.
15 years after that incident the former Nadi soccer and rugby rep revealed to SUNsports how and why he made that illegal tackle and shared some memories while playing for the national 7s team.
“Vaisuai has been one of my rivals in all the 7s tournaments that we played and most of the time he always teased me when he scored a try or when his Samoan team beats Fiji,” he said.
“In 1991 and 1992 I toured with the national 7s team to play at a Samoan 7s tournament and this guy (Vaisuai) always teased me and my other team mates after scoring a try. So from there on I was marking him all along until he met his fate in the 1993 Hong Kong 7s.”
“In that, the Fiji team was attacking before Vaisuai intercepted the ball to score and on his way back he teased me and my other team mates which includes Serevi, Rasari, Nadura and Rabaka.”
“Personally his action was too much too handle and I really can’t take it. So before the restart I told Serevi to kick a high ball to Vaisuai and while he was still high in the air I thumped him hard on the ground and that was also the end of his game that day. I was laughing to myself when I saw him being carried off the field.”
“Even though we lost in that game, I was bit satisfied that I ended Vaisuai’s teasing game.”
The hard-hitting Nawaka fighter also shared on how he used to rub shoulders with some of the world’s 7s players and one of his worst enemies in the rugby paddock is none other than former All Blacks inspirational skipper and livewire hooker Eric Rush.
Waki regarded Rush as his most respected player, a best friend off the field but a worst enemy on the field.
“Rush is one player that I have a lot of respect for, he is my best friend off the field and my worst enemy on the field. We knew each other style of play, when we meet on the field, we had a go for each other, he punched me, kicked me and I always do the same to him. If you had a chance to meet him you will see a scar on his forehead, that’s my mark. I stepped on his face but the referee never noticed, also he has his mark on my chest, he kicked me during one of rugby matches.”
“He stepped on my head and I always do the same to him. In a tackle ball some punches are thrown and like a true rugby players we do take those kinds of play.”
“After the game we are very best friends and every time when he comes to Fiji he will look for me. I admire and respect his style of play and also his attitude off the field.”
Waki grew up in his village in Yavuna, Nawaka and his dream was to be a successful person in life.
Actually rugby never emerged on his mind while growing up instead he loved playing with the soccer ball and later on became a Nadi soccer rep.
He was a Nadi soccer rep when one of his friends invited him to watch a rugby match and it was also there that his dream of playing rugby surfaced.
“While growing up I wanted to be a sportsman but I was not sure of what particular sport to take part in, I then choose soccer where I later represented Nadi in soccer playing fullback, I played for the Navakai soccer team then later went on to represent Nadi.”
“Then one day a cousin of mine in the village invited me to join him to watch a rugby match and after that match I made a vow to myself that I wanted to concentrate on rugby and playing in the national team was my aim then.”
“The reason I wanted to switch from soccer to rugby because in those days soccer was not that famous whilst most rugby players were visiting places and traveling overseas and I wanted also to follow their footsteps.”
“I was a cane farmer that time and I wanted to make my name in rugby and to also travel overseas playing rugby.”
“In 1993 my uncle Eparama Nakoro Mociu told me to sacrifice all the things I loved best like the grog, smoking and he always encouraged me to work hard and to achieve my aim.”
“Most of the time he accompanied me during my early morning training runs and always motivated me to do my best in everything I do.”
Waki’s perseverance and dedication was rewarded when he was selected to lead the Nadi 7s team at the 1992 SUN 7s and it was also there that his rugby career blossomed.
“In 1992 I captained the Nadi 7s team at the SUN 7s a side that includes big names such as Manasa Qoro, Savenaca Aria, Ilaitia Ravouvou and then I was named as one of the non traveling reserves that year.”
“In 1993 I was selected to play at the Canberra 7s and later went to play for Hong Kong 7s and also I was a member of the first national 7s team that played in Murrayfield for the inaugural 7s Rugby World Cup.”
Waki said even though Fiji bowed out to eventual winner England in that game but what he learned from that tournament under the guidance of the late Ratu Kitione Tuibua was something he would always cherished. “If you trained under Tukiti, surely you will benefit one way or the other because of his teachings and that will only happen if you follow his instruction.”
“He is one of the most respectable coaches I have come across, because firstly he is a chief and he expects us to do what he says if not you he will tell you straight that if don’t follow his instructions then pack your staff and go home.”
“He always brings the best in a player, even during training most of us would vomit but his words would motivate us to break barriers and continue. He always told us that wearing the white national jumper is not to be fancied about because it requires the best from you in fighting for your country.”

The former Nadi looseman believes the return of the Gau wizard Waisale Serevi at the helm of the Digicel 7s team is best for Fiji rugby.
“Serevi has brought back the hopes of the 7s fans and he is the right man to take Fiji back in the right direction even though he still wants to play but all that depends on the FRU but we the public must give Serevi all the support he needs. The onus is on the players to believe in themselves and played their hearts out for Fiji.”
He said for Fiji to be competitive with world’s rugby giants such as All Blacks, Wallabies and the Springboks we have to stick to our own running rugby.
“Fijians are better known for our natural and running game and we must stick to that, we did this style of play in the olden days when we used to beat teams like the British Lions and other top teams.”
“Also we should not follow overseas style of training because the food we eat is best suited for the kind of training we have in the olden days. In overseas they have diet and training that suits them. So if we are going to follow overseas kind of training than we must discipline ourselves on what we eat.”
“Just see in the past we beat many big teams like the Lions and we drew with Australia and New Zealand and compared that to performances to our national team nowadays we are walloped by these teams and I think the reason is that we want to adapt to their style of rugby.”
Waki also has an advice for young people who are still pursuing their dreams.
“If you want to be successful in life, you have to set your goals, work hard towards it and keep out of all the unnecessary things such as liquor, smoking etc. Most importantly you must serve the Lord with all your hearts and work hard towards your aim.”
Waki has demonstrated and lived how success was achieved the hard way, he tried all his best in working towards his dreams until he reaped the fruits of hard work.

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