Farewell The Ultimate Warrior
A former national rugby skipper Sela Toga cannot attend former teammate Ratu Jope Naucabalavu’s funeral in Bau today.
He is not well but he paid tribute to the ultimate warrior.
“We played for Fiji together, shared many things together on and off the field,”Toga said.
“I want to bid him farewell but I could not travel with my current condition.
“But I’m proud we have done many good things for Fiji in rugby and off the field for our people.”
Toga was a member of the 1964 Fijian team which was invited to Bau before they departed for the inaugural tour of Northern Hemisphere.
“We call each other Ratu but no other names. He was a good man and does not get angry easily but if someone plays rough with him then he will surely pay the price.
“In 1970 I captained the team to England and Ratu Jope was the assistant captain.
“I do not talk much and I would let Ratu Jope to talk to the players. He commanded our support.” Members of 1970 team Pio Bosco Tikoisuva and Sitiveni Rabuka also spoke highly of Ratu Jope.
He said Ratu Jope was a great player both on and off the field and he was a good representative of the country.
“He was very well respected because of this and while he loved to joke a lot with the players, he knew when to be serious during training and at game time,” Rabuka said.
“He was also a player well respected by the opposition because of he knew how to carry himself on the field and he can give a hard one as well as take a hard knock as well as give it and he found himself in a few scuffles and fights, which was the norm back in our days.
“He was a guest when my wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and when his daughter married the Tui Cakau’s son, we were invited. So we shared a relationship that went beyond the team.
“Not only did we have that friendship from the team but we also had these traditional ties to each other and didn’t share that sort of vulgar relationship that people have come to take the tauvu role as today. It was one of mutual respect and with lots of good humour.”
Pio Bosco Tikoisuva
He said: “I fully respect Ratu Jope as a person and also as a rugby player. He was one of the best players of our generation but he was also a very humble and simple man who cared for everyone and was easily approachable.
“As a player, he was a very hard man in the second row. He was built like the ultimate player with strong built, the height, the right size as well as the talent and the ability.
“He was also a very caring person and one of the best examples of this was last year. When one of our former rugby colleagues passed away in Namosi and was buried there and we had gone for the funeral.
“We were surprised that as we pulled up, he pulled up behind us and when we asked him how he had come to know he said he had read the notice in the newpapers and immediately made his way over to pay his respects. So that’s a clear example of the kind of man he is and how compassionate he was about his teammates and we certainly all appreciate him for that.”