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Paula Dranisinukula’s Biggest Test To Make It 5-In-A-Row

“Especially when you are in the tunnel ready to run out onto the field, it’s something you have to ex­perience to be able to understand, it’s just unreal.”
30 Mar 2019 10:00
Paula Dranisinukula’s Biggest Test To Make It 5-In-A-Row
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s captain Paula Dranisinukula (second from left) leads from the front during training at Albert Park, Suva on March 20, 2019. Photo: FRU Media

Despite winning the Hong Kong 7s for four years-in-a row is no easy feat.

That’s why Fiji Airways Fijian 7s captain Paula Dranisinukula has a big task ahead of him as they will try to make it five-in-a-row by next Sunday.

Without key playmakers Amenoni Nasilasila, Vatemo Ravouvou, the dropping of Kalione Nasoko and Mesulame Kunavula is going to make the task more difficult.

The Fijians are in a tough pool where they face New Zealand, Aus­tralia and Kenya.

Coach Gareth Baber said it right that it’s like playing three finals in the pool.

“Defending the tournament would be huge because it is Hong Kong. There are records at stake but again, I’ve to keep the players’ minds fully focused on the job and the roles they have.”

For Dranisinukula, he stepped into the leadership role after Nasoko was injured in their final pool game of the Canada 7s. With a lot of injuries in the side, the Drauniivi, Ra native led from the front and demanded the best from the players as they finished third in Vancouver.

In an earlier interview Dranisi­nukula said he was ready to lead the team if Nasoko is injured and the management need him to do so.

With that confidence, we can go in fancying our chances and expect­ing a great game from our play­ers despite the fact that playing in Hong Kong as they always say is not for the feint-hearted

Already there is a buzz in the air around Hong Kong and everything to do with Hong Kong Sevens – con­sidered the premier tournament of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

As usual the world’s best players arrive from rugby sevens hotspots such as Fiji, New Zealand, England and Australia are beginning to ar­rive. Let’s take a look at what some of the 7s stars have to say of their experience in playing at the Hong Kong 7s

NOTHING COMPARES

Cecil Afrika plays rugby sevens for the South African Blitzboks. He’s a seven-time veteran of the Hong Kong tournament and his en­thusiasm has never waned.

Afrika was a member of the sevens team that won the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and they have been finalists in Hong Kong four times, but never won the competition. Afrika’s goal in sev­ens is to be part of the first South African team to win in Hong Kong.

“The Hong Kong event is spe­cial, it’s like the final stop on the World Series, no other competition around the world can compare,” Afrika told South China Morning Post.

For him and many other players, the history of the Hong Kong Sev­ens as the first truly global rugby tournament has given it a legend­ary status.

Tim Mikkelson co-captain of New Zealand’s famed All Blacks Sevens, grew up watching the Hong Kong Sevens on television. Now sixth on the all-time list of the game’s top try scorers, says the Hong Kong tournament is highpoint of the an­nual series and the one he looks for­ward to playing in most of all.

“The Hong Kong game stands out on its own with the history, the massive Hong Kong Stadium and the fans,” he said.

“The support is unbelievable, even from the first game, with the (boisterous supporters in the) South Stand and the (fancy dress) costumes. As far as the setting, it’s a beautiful atmosphere. I can’t wait to get out there and play in front of the huge crowd in Hong Kong.”

ENERGY PLUS

Afrika says some of his best per­formances have been at the Hong Kong Sevens. The atmosphere and extreme decibel levels delivered by cheering fans do not distract him and, instead, energise him and his teammates.

“In Hong Kong, the ambiance is unlike any other place,” he says. “During the game you are so en­gaged, you have to completely focus on playing but, subconsciously, the energy of the crowd blends in to your experience and I think it af­fects your performance.”

For both Afrika and Mikkelson, Hong Kong Stadium is iconic. The shape of the structure with its two open, angular wings, offering glimpses of the towering skyscrap­ers of Causeway Bay to the north and the verdant valley of Wong Nai Chung Gap to the south, create a feeling that is unmatched else­where.

Fijian-born Kameli Soejima, one of Japan’s highest scoring sevens players, says that the nature of the Hong Kong event is energising in a way that others in the series are not. “It makes you feel like a gladia­tor ready for battle,” he says.

“Especially when you are in the tunnel ready to run out onto the field, it’s something you have to ex­perience to be able to understand, it’s just unreal.”

Edited by Anasilini Natoga

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