SPORTS

Tough Start, Drua Becomes Better

It has been hectic for the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua franchise.
28 May 2022 11:20
Tough Start, Drua Becomes Better
Swire Shipping Fijian Drua players (from left) Isoa Nasilasila, Simione Kuruvoli and Haereiti Hetet at the Fiji Airways Hangar at Nadi International Airport on May 26, 2022. Photo: Fijian Drua

It has been hectic for the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua franchise.

The Fiji Rugby Union and the management of the Drua franchise had been working at a frantic pace to ensure that our 25-year dream of playing in the Super Rugby materialises.

And they achieved it.

Today, the Drua play their final round of the Super Rugby Pacific competition against the Chiefs.

Already, the Mick Byrne-coached side have registered two wins under their belt, which is a remarkable start for a newcomer.

Looking back at the start of this journey, the Drua had to meet a number of requirements before approval of its participation in Super Rugby was given.

The delay in approval was a setback for the Drua as it lost several players, who kept their options open as they waited for the opportunity.

It came to a time that these players cannot afford to wait but make a decision of their next move.

Also, at that stage there were fears that things might not turn out to be in our favour.

Approval

But it was not to be, the approval came and FRU along with the Drua management had to scramble to assemble the best possible squad.

It was not easy, because there had been no local rugby competition during the 2021 season due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, we had our High Performance Unit (HPU) up and running and were able to sign a few players from there.

Then members of the Fijian 7s team that won the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games along with players who shone during the 2020 Skipper Cup season.

There was no turning back as the management turned to Australia and New Zealand to sign up our former Fijian Under-20 players who have been playing well in their respective competitions.

This set the platform of our first Super Rugby campaign.

And although our players were new to a professional environment, adapt to a fast paced game with lots of physicality, they did not disappoint.

Apart from the wins over Melbourne Rebels and Moana Pasifika,

we lost narrowly to Queensland Reds, Western Force and the Highlanders.

If we had won those games, the Drua would be among the top eight teams and a spot for the playoffs but it was not to be.

We should always appreciate that our players a now much-richer in terms of experience and they know what to expect come 2023.

Review

As we end our 2022 Super Rugby campaign, already reviews are being done on our players’ performance.

Hard decisions are going to be made in the next few weeks on whether to renew their contracts or not.

Already, Drua’s current top try scorer Onisi Ratave is not renewing his one-year contract since he signed-up with Italian club Benetton.

Ratave’s departure will open up a spot in the Drua squad and an opportunity for another of our local-based player to step-up to the task.

And we’ve got a pool of local-based players who have showed during the Skipper competition that they have got what it takes to play Super Rugby.

These are the likes of Naitasiri centre Filimoni Waqanabete, robust winger Kaliova Mocetadra, Namosi’s Avete Daveta and Poasa Waqanibau of Tailevu and the list goes on.

Then we’ve promising Northland halfback Suluka Tunaka.

In the forwards we’ve tighthead prop Emmanuel Naciva, Mateo Qolisese, towering lock Marika Natau, Jone Navori, Ilisoni Galala, Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Manoa Tamaya and so on.

The success of local-based players like Vinaya Habosi, Ratave, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Meli Derenalagi, Kitione Salawa, Simione Kuruvoli, Vilive Miramira and Apisalome Vota in Super Rugby will inspire the newcomers to rise to the occasion.

Yes, it’s a matter of planning things out well, making those hard decisions, and adapting to the new changes.

All of these are done for the progress of the Drua come the 2023 Super Rugby.



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