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Radradra: Fiji No Matter What

“I would never put myself even close to Caucau. For me, he is still the best. There is no other Fijian winger who has been like him.”
17 Jun 2020 16:00
Radradra: Fiji No Matter What
Semi Radradra

 

Semi Radradra will always put his hands up when it comes to representing the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians despite all the disadvantages that come with it.

The man who is regarded as one of the world’s best rugby players revealed this during an interview with The Telegraph.

“We struggle because we don’t get enough preparation time like the Tier One teams,” Radradra said.

“Often, we have a three-week camp and then we play straight away- that’s it.

“We are finding it tough and we are struggling- but hopefully that will change soon.”

INSPIRATION

When asked on what inspired him the most, the 28-year-old talks about his family in Somosomo Village, Taveuni.

“My inspirations are back home,” he said.

“I grew up in a poor family. I have seven siblings and my dad and mum work on the farm. When my dad got very sick- he had lung cancer- my older brother and sister would go to school and I had to stay home and help my dad. That’s what drives me.

“Even before matches, or when life is tough, I always think about and look back on how hard life is back home.

“That’s what has motivated me forever. I carry my family with me.”

CAUCAU FACTOR

Radradra said on the field, however, there was only one person who got him ticking.

The “phenomenal” Rupeni Caucaunibuca (fondly known as Caucau), Fijian rugby’s most famous desperado, the flawed swashbuckler.

“I would never put myself even close to Caucau. For me, he is still the best. There is no other Fijian winger who has been like him.”

Radradra, according to Pat Lam, his soon-to-be director of rugby at Bristol Bears, is en route and ready for what the Fijian galactico describes as his fiercest challenge yet.

“This is the biggest step in my career,” Radradra said.

“I was telling my wife it’s going to be a massive challenge for me.

“Not just the first couple of months, but the whole first year will be a challenge.

“I’ve been watching some Premiership matches and it seems like it’s going to be a big test for me to dominate. I’ll have to bring my A game and see what happens.”

His professional career began with smashing records in Australia’s National Rugby 0eague (NRL), after being signed unseen by the Parramatta Eels solely on the back of a photo of him training.

But having grown up playing rugby, the wing-turned-centre switched codes in 2017 and is adamant he is “never going back”.

His performances for Bordeaux this season, as well as his beloved Fiji, have petrified and enthralled in equal measure, none more so than his 2019 World Cup display against Wales, a match in which he was several classes above anyone else on the field.

MODEST

But Radradra does not believe the hype, not entirely anyway.

With a modesty and groundedness so often seen in players hailing from the Pacific Islands, Radradra still feels that “he has a lot to prove in union”, and he balks at any suggestion that he is the world’s best player.

“People say that I’m the best, but I don’t rate myself as the best,” he says.

“I’m still learning and I’m still trying to prove myself. I have a lot of features of my game to improve, and that’s why I’m looking forward to going over to England.”

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Radradra is swapping one South West for another.

He is still in France after the 2019-20 Top 14 season was abandoned with his club leading the pack.

Although the “disappointment” of not finishing the job with Bordeaux still lingers- “I have unfinished business in France”- he has begun “packing his bags” ready for an early July arrival in Bristol.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business. I have to move on,” he said.

“I cannot wait to get over to Bristol to meet the boys, train with them and play with them. To play with those boys- Charles Piutau and all the others- is an honour.”

WHY?

But why Bristol? And why England?

It was not for its fineries and fripperies. Instead, he points to the man at the Bears’ helm, Lam.

“I was fortunate enough to play for the Barbarians and I really admired the way (Lam) put the game and the team together,” he says.

“I thought he’d be a suitable fit for me.”

Next season, Radradra will be one of Bristol’s two marquee players, meaning his wages will not be included in the club’s salary cap.

Marquee players and salary caps are English rugby’s two most en vogue concepts, and Fiji’s darling is under no illusions of his privileged status. But Radradra is an athlete who, until recently, unashamedly took little interest in the politics or bureaucracies that have beset the game.

However, the words of Stephen Lansdown, Bristol’s owner who publicly backed the continuation of the marquee-player scheme, moved the Fijian greatly.

“It’s very touching. When one of the boys sent me the link and I read about what he said (backing the scheme), for me to hear that from the owner- it gives me something, another burst,” he says.

“If he is going to do this, then I have to work hard, you know? I have to work for it. For me, it’s given me a heads-up. I have to be at the top of my game every week.”

PASSION

Fiji is Radradra’s “passion”.

His tattooed torso is evidence enough, full of ink representing the ‘Fijian way’ – although his wife, Vika, has banned him from adding to the collection.

But, while Fiji will always be his home, his talent meant he was always destined to outgrow it.

“I was talking to my sister a few days ago,” Radradra recalled.

“And I was telling her that I had a sort of deja vu, back to a dream from when I was younger; I dreamt that I would be playing rugby out there in the world someday.

“I knew that if I kept my head down, kept working hard and believing in myself, I could get to the top.”

He did just that.

Edited by Simione Haravanua

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