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The Day We Beat Scotland

The Day We Beat Scotland
1998 Flying Fijians captain Sale Sorovaki at the Fiji Rugby Union office in Suva on June 19, 2017. Photo: Jone Luvenitoga
June 20
11:00 2017

1998 Flying Fijians captain tells how they did the impossible

On May 26, 1998 was a historic moment for Fiji Rugby when our Flying Fijians walloped Scotland 51-26 in a Test match for the first time at the National Stadium in Suva.

Speaking to SUNsports yesterday, the man who led the Flying Fijians on that glorious afternoon in Laucala, Sale Sorovaki says, it was an unforgettable moment.

“I was playing in Japan at that time and came over to attend the trials for the Scotland test,” he said.

Sorovaki said the first trial was an East versus West match in Nadi, which was held on a Tuesday and on the Saturday they had another trial in Lautoka before the team was named in the evening.

“During the naming of the team my name was not called out when it came to the centres. I had thought that I was dropped and slowly made my way to the hotel’s reception area. Little did I know that my name was the last on the list and the reason they did that was because they had appointed me as captain.”

Sorovaki said that was another big challenge for him because the side had many experienced players who he always looked up too.

“Coach Brad Johnstone may have had his reasons of naming me as his captain. In our preparations we trained in Nadi under the scorching heat and made our way to Suva on a Sunday as the test match was held in midweek.”



On the morning of the Test match, Sorovaki says, they had gathered together while Johnstone went individually to the players and spoke to them about their performance and the importance of the task ahead.

“That is how he does his pep talk. I remembered that first on the list was prop Joeli Veitayaki and Brad walked up to him and said ‘Joe you put on a massive performance against the Chiefs where you took on Richard Loe who is the All Blacks first choice prop.’ This is the kind of way Brad fires-up the players.”

Sorovaki said after Johnstone had spoken to all the players he then turned to him and said; “The last Kadavu man to captained Fiji was George Cavalevu in 1951. They never lost under his captaincy. So don’t become the first Kadavu man to captain a losing Fijian side.”

Sorovaki said, he took those words as a challenge and gave his all.



During the game, Sorovaki says, he had the task of marking Gregor Townsend, who is the head coach of the current Scotland team in the country.

The Scotland side was captained by Rob Wainwright, who played at flanker along with star players like halfback Bryan Redpath and hooker Gordon Bulloch.

“That day, I was fortunate to have experienced players around me in the team- the likes of Waisale Serevi, Veitayaki and a few more who assisted me as the game went on. Another contributing factor to our win was the support of the fans and despite being a midweek game the stadium was filled to capacity as fans cheered us on,” Sorovaki recalled.

 Edited by Paula Tuvuki




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