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Opportunity Of A Lifetime

It is every players’ dream to play in the Super Rugby competition. It’s the only way they could stamp their mark and become marketable in the rugby world. However, it’s
05 Sep 2021 11:22
Opportunity Of A Lifetime
Former Stormers centre Sireli Naqelevuki in action.

It is every players’ dream to play in the Super Rugby competition. It’s the only way they could stamp their mark and become marketable in the rugby world.

However, it’s not easy for the players when in the Super Rugby environment where they are demanded to do the hard yards.

This is because of the intensity of the competition, high expectations of the coaching staff and the demand by the franchise club for them to perform week in and week out.

This was the gist of former Stormers centre Sireli Naqelevuki’s message during an interview with SUNsports on the Fijian Drua’s debut in February’s newly revamped Super Rugby Pacific competition.

Naqelevuki said local-based players must put on a new mindset when it comes to Super Rugby.

“It is a different level of competition altogether even the name of the competition states that,” he said.

“It is Super Rugby, if you want to play in the competition you have to be super yourself.

“That is with good strength, speed, endurance and most importantly mental toughness. This is because you’ll have to analyse yourself weekly.

“The players must attain for high standards starting here in our local competition before playing in the Super Rugby.

“It is a competitive environment and there is no room for mistakes. There is literally, ‘a no mistake policy’ with teams playing in the competition as they all want to set a winning culture.

“That’s why the pace in Super Rugby is very fast. Imagine, there is a turnover and within a blink of an eye the opposing team can run in to score a try.”

Just a glance

Naqelevuki, was the first Fijian player to play for a South African franchise club. He represented Stormers from 2008 to 2010 in Super Rugby.

Earlier on he played for Western Province in the South Africa’s Currie Cup competition from 2006 and 2009.

The tough Kadavu native also played for the Fijian 7s team when they first won the HSBC World Sevens Series in 2005.

To be competitive 

He said for the Drua to be competitive they need to condition their bodies right from the off season.

This, Naqelevuki says, enables them to play a fast game, recycle the ball quickly, execute their moves and must always play smart rugby.

“The players need to keep analysing their performance. By doing that they are rectifying their mistakes and learn new ways on how to improve.

“This will enable them to play consistently and be in the best form every week.”

Naqelevuki said the players must be switched on in every Super game because it is played at a high speed.

“I’ve played in rugby competitions like the Gallagher Premiership, Guinness PRO14 and the French Top 14. The pace in these competitions are very slow when compared to Super Rugby.”

Nothing is impossible

He reiterated that nothing is impossible for the local-based players as they only need to change their mindset when it comes to playing in Super Rugby.

“I believe we’ve a good group of players and if they continue to play together for some time in the Super Rugby than we have a good chance of performing well at the Rugby World Cup,” Naqelevuki who is now Naitasiri Rugby’s backline coach said.

“We need to change the way we prepare in our local competition like the Skipper Cup, we need to lift the standards and play like those teams in the Super Rugby.

“We’ve to minimise our penalty counts, demolish stop and start rugby, do the little things right on and off the field so when we watch we know they are ready for the big comp.

“Professionalism should start from individual players who must put on a professional mindset.

“Approaching the Super competition, the players must think, breath, eat, drink and talk about rugby.

“The players must be on par with what is needed by the coaches. It’s a professional environment and their attitude has got to be right.”

Travelling

Naqelevuki said travelling is not an issue for the Drua because they would be based in Brisbane, Australia and New Zealand is close by.

“There will be no problem adapting to time because we are just a few hours apart and the weather will not be a problem.

“When I was with the Stormers we used to travel and spend a month in New Zealand and Australia and our travelling logistics depend on the format we play in but now due to COVID-19 there could be changes.”

Value goes up

He indicated that for players with Super Rugby experience, they are paid much higher by top professional clubs in Europe and Japan. They are simply in demand.

Naqelevuki said that is why the local-based players must make use of the opportunity.

“Once you leave Super Rugby your value as player rises to another level.

“The valuation depends on your age and the pace of the competition and how you perform weekly.

“This is what the club that wants to sign you base their assessment on. It’s like how good will you fit into their system and what you bring to help the club progress.”

Sevens players

Naqelevuki said using our national sevens’ players to play for the Drua is a move to the right direction.

“My transition from sevens to Super Rugby is not so tough because I was already fit from playing in the seven series.

“Once I reached the Stormers environment they beefed up my body according to my positional role and what I get involved in.”

He said Fijian sevens players who have made it big in Super Rugby Marika Vunibaka, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Joe Rokocoko, Vilimoni Delasau, Seru Rabeni and the list goes on.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback: simione.haravanua@fijisun.com.fj



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