SPORTS

Derenalagi Ups 7s Tempo

With 17 tries and 86 tackles, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Naval Division officer was influential on both ends of the pitch.
02 Nov 2019 15:30
Derenalagi Ups 7s Tempo
Fiji Airways Fijian 7s forward Meli Derenalagi during training at Albert Park in Suva on November 1, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Fiji Airways Fijian 7s forward Meli Derenalagi played some of the best rugby of his life last season.

Intelligent with ball-in-hand and a towering presence among the forwards, it was obvious why coach Gareth Baber regards Derenalagi so highly.

The 20-year-old trained with the extended squad at Albert Park in Suva yesterday and is expected to be a key player this season.

The Nawaka, Nadi, native featured in every tournament last season, with his stellar performances earning him the HSBC Rookie of the Year award.

Having played in 56 matches last season, only three behind winger Alasio Naduva, the statistics underline Derenalagi’s importance in Baber’s series-winning side.

With 17 tries and 86 tackles, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Naval Division officer was influential on both ends of the pitch.

Even after the team lost Mesulame Kunavula and Kalione Nasoko, Derenalagi was able to gel quickly with the new players and hold the fort for Baber’s side.

His dominant performances have also endeared him to fans, who will have high expectations once again this season.

The forward has also displayed strong leadership ability – despite his age – making him a must for selection in a team laced with a number of young payers.

“I have high expectations of myself and I’m hoping for a good season,” he said.

“For me, I always look at my weaknesses and try to work on it to become matured. The senior players have been leading the team but I need to be one of the leaders too so that’s what I’m working on.”

The Fijians will be in action from Thursday during the Oceania 7s at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

The tournament should provide the perfect curtain-raiser for a team with big ambitions this season, including defending the gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

“The off-season training has been going well and we are looking forward to the Oceania 7s. Our bond is good and the new players have been working hard,” Derenalagi said.

“Preparation is going well, especially gelling in with the new players. It is important that we know each other very well so when we come to the rugby field, it’s easier to work together.”

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

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