NZ Flying Fijians For Drua

It’s just like another platform really for Fi­jian players to highlight their skills for the world stage, in terms of it’s a step up from just playing their club and comps and stuff in Fiji and playing against the best,
02 Sep 2021 16:42
 NZ Flying Fijians For Drua
Bay of Plenty and Flying Fijians prop Haereiti Hetet (right) with team-mates. Photo: Radio NZ

Flying Fijians players based in New Zealand are top contenders to play for the Fijian Drua when Super Rugby Pa­cific begins in February 18.

They are prop Haereiti Hetet and Onisi Rat­ave of the Bay of Plenty Steamers and hook­er Mesulame Dolokoto, who is with Tasman Mako.

Hetet said the Drua was a hot topic of con­versation in the Flying Fijians camp during their recent two- test series against the All Blacks.

“It’s just like another platform really for Fi­jian players to showcase their skills for the world stage, in terms of it’s a step up from just playing their club and comps and stuff in Fiji and playing against the best,” Hetet told Radio New Zealand.

“Obviously, Super Rugby you’ve got Wal­labies and All Blacks playing so it will be good for the Fijian players to test themselves against the best.”

The Bay of Plenty loosehead is in his fourth season of provincial rugby in New Zealand but must juggle his playing commitments with work at the local timber mill in Otoro­hanga.

The 24-year-old has represented the Maori All Blacks and Fiji and could be among the players to benefit from Super Rugby teams that are dedicated to Pacific Island players.

“Yeah, I’ve had conversations about this, it’s an option definitely. I don’t know where they’re based or anything like that but yes it is a good opportunity.”

Ratave was one of the local-based players that joined the Flying Fijians camp after being dropped from sevens team that won the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Namosi centre impressed Flying Fiji­ans head coach Vern Cotter and was drafted into the Steamers squad.

He put on a sterling performance during his National Provincial Championship (NPC) debut for Bay of Plenty as they walloped Southland 31-11 in Invercargill on August 15.

According to Rugby News, Ratave’s run­ning style and brilliance evoked memories of former Blues speedster Rupeni Caucaun­ibuca.

Dolokoto played for the Drua when they won the Australia National Rugby Cham­pionship in 2018. He played for the Flying Fijians at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and re­cently completed his contract with Glasgow Warriors.

With ‘Super Rugby Pacific’ confirmed to kick off in February, the race is on for Mo­ana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua to sign up their inaugural playing squads.

The Drua also must decide where they will be based next season, with Fiji’s ongo­ing COVID-19 problems ruling out plans to play on home soil.

In an earlier interview Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer John O’Connor they are having discussion with New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia on the matter.

Pacific Rugby Players Interim CEO Hale T-Pole told Radio New Zealand, that the Moana Pasifika and the Drua missed some high-profile signings because of ongoing de­lays.

“It would have been a lot easier for both or­ganisations that these were sorted a lot ear­lier,” he admitted.

“They had a lot of big players in their books when they started the conversations about playing for them – the Moana and the Drua – but then in the last month they had to make decisions and then sign overseas.”

But with Super Rugby Pacific finally con­firmed, the former ‘Ikale Tahi flanker was confident both teams would still assemble competitive squads.

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