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Fiji Sun


Unions to tap on new talents

July 15
12:00 2009

Written By : General Editor. The emergence of an exciting talent like Lino Saunitoga means rugby is very much alive in our lovely isles.
The Nukubalavu-native from Savusavu in Vanua Levu made his debut for Lautoka at this year’s Digicel Cup competition and now has forced his way into the national rugby sevens squad.
Sooner or later, at the rate he is going, the lanky forward could be making his mark for the Flying Fijians.
No one denies the fact that Fiji has got a wealth of untapped talented players.
Over the years, we’ve seen how these players given the opportunity were able stamp their mark not only in the local scene but to the whole world.
One of such example is winger Rupeni Caucaunibuca who first played for Bua in the Island Zone before been plucked into the Tailevu side by the late Ratu Kitione Tuibua.
From Tailevu, he mesmerised the Super 14 competition when he played for Auckland Blues and that led to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union requesting the International Rugby Board to review the eligibility status clause just before the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
If IRB had changed the clause, Caucaunibuca could have ended up playing for the All Blacks instead of Fiji at the RWC.
The rise of such players has been contributed to the work of the Fiji Rugby Union development officers.
And over the years, a lot of these minor unions or island zone districts depend on the FRU developing officers to wave their magic wand and expose their talented players.
The impact of the global financial crisis has taken a huge toll on the FRU coffers and this has contributed to the fact that companies all around the world are now tightening up their finances to withstand the current recession.
Surely enough there is a development fund from the IRB which is sufficient but something we should not rely on all the time.
Actually, another way possible, if all the major unions use their development officers to visit the islands and rural areas to identify such talents and bring them to play for their respective unions.
This is the case of Lino as he was roped in by the Lautoka Rugby Union and now has shown his worth.
National rugby sevens star William Ryder followed a much similar path when PWD Bure brought him across to Viti Levu to play for their sevens team.
This is the most perfect way for major union teams to make their investments and surely enough it’s going to be a challenging task.
Former Waikato coach George Simpkin showed us how it was done in the late 1980s.
He visited the islands and the rural areas where he located talented players like Joeli Veitayaki, Timoci Wainiqolo, Vesito Rauluni, Saula Bueta and Epineri Naituku who later became the pride of the nation.
It’s not too late now, we’ve got to start from somewhere and the onus is on the major unions to take the lead while the FRU focuses on other issues that enable Fiji rugby to grow to newer heights.

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