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An Iconic Warrior: Ratu Ilaitia Tuisese’s Rugby World

Former national rep, captain, manager, coach and administrator, Ratu Ilaitia Tuisese, is a living tes­tament of someone who is still en­joying the spinoffs from the game .
16 Feb 2019 13:01
An Iconic Warrior: Ratu Ilaitia Tuisese’s Rugby World

Rugby can mould people into better players, citizens, managers and help them live longer provided they look after themselves.

And you don’t have to be rich to see the world as rugby can take you places you can only dream of, meet­ing royalties as among the many once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Former national rep, captain, manager, coach and administrator, Ratu Ilaitia Tuisese, is a living tes­tament of someone who is still en­joying the spinoffs from the game.

His decorated rugby career start­ed in 1969 against Wales in Suva and ended in a historic win against British & Irish Lions at the same venue in 1977.

Last Friday, Tuisese was inducted into the Hall of Fame during the Fiji Rugby Union Awards Night.

As board chairman of the Fiji SUN, he was hosted to a tea party yesterday where he shared how rugby shaped his life and personal­ity.

 

Living Testament

“I’m a living testament that rugby can be more than just playing the game,”Tuisese said

“I played as a lock forward, in­volved in a lot of scrums, came across tight situations where a lot of quick decisions needed to be made.

“I can proudly say that rugby helped me in being bold with deci­sions later in life due to the hard grind we endured together in try­ing to works as a unit on the field over the years.

“Rugby instills that element of hardness that can help you enjoy and live life to the fullest provided you look after yourself.”

Tuisese said rugby gave him the chance to see more of the world.

“I’ve been to New Zealand, Aus­tralia, England, Wales Ireland, France, United States, Canada Ar­gentina and Hong Kong all because of rugby,” Tuisese said.

“I was fortunate in meeting up world dignitaries including the Queen at Buckingham Palace.”

 

Ratu Ilaitia Tuisese share about  his rugby experience with staff at the Fiji Sun headquarters in Suva.

Ratu Ilaitia Tuisese share about his rugby experience with staff at the Fiji Sun headquarters in Suva.

 

Sevens New Stars

He was the pioneer of the abbrevi­ated code being the captain, coach and manager of the Fiji team that played at the inaugural Hong Kong Sevens in 1976.

One year later, he became the first Fijian to lift the HK 7s title at So Kon Po.

He is a keen follower of the Fiji Airways Fijian 7s team and is happy with new reps in the squad.

“Meli Derenalagi is a natural 7s forward, always on the hunt for the ball and good in defence,” he said

“Vilimoni Botitu is a natural rov­er and I’m also impressed with the running angles of wing Aminiasi Tuimaba.”

 

Missing South Africa

Tuisese says the only regret in his career was not being allowed to play in South Africa.

Together with Pio Bosco Tikoisu­va, they were invited to play for the World XV against the Springboks during the apartheid era.

Despite having travel documents ready, both were told to withdraw from the tour by the late Deputy Prime Minister Ratu Sir Penaia Ga­nilau due to the Gleneagles Agree­ment signed by the Commonwealth countries.

The 1977 Agreement compelled Commonwealth Presidents and Prime Ministers, as part of their support for the international cam­paign against apartheid, to have no contact and competition with South Africa.

“What could we have done. We had to follow protocol,” he said.

“Just imagine if we could have played in South Africa and the re­percussion it would bring to Fiji.

“You need to do what is right. But rugby has been good to me up to this day.”

Tuisese will be remembered as one of the legends of the game, having excelled both on and off the rugby field.

He’s also well regarded as a bea­con of inspiration for players today, a perfect example of why it is im­portant for them to plan their lives beyond their rugby careers.

His leadership qualities, soft-spo­ken but firm nature and quiet wit have earned him the nickname, ‘gentle giant.’

Tuisese’s opponents, though, will remember him differently.

They will remember him for his rugby brilliance and bone-crunch­ing tackles. They will remember him as one of Fiji’s most iconic rugby warriors.

Edited by Sheldon Chanel

Feedback: osea.bola@fijisun.com.fj


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