Fijian Drua confirm seven new signings, including three test stars
A fortnight after they unveiled their last batch of signings, the new expansion franchise have confirmed the acquisitions of Flying Fijian stars Mesulame Dolokoto, Teti Tela and Haereiti Hetet.
After having made his test debut for Fiji in 2018, Dolokoto has gone on to play 10 times for his country, playing as recently as this year when he came off the bench against the All Blacks in Hamilton three months ago.
The 26-year-old hooker, who was part of the Drua squad that won the 2018 NRC in Australia, also featured at the 2019 World Cup and most recently played for the Glasgow Warriors before being released ahead of the current United Rugby Championship season.
Capable of playing at first-five or second-five, not only is Tela set to provide the Drua with selection options throughout the backline, but he will also offer valuable experience attained from various levels of the game.
Born in Fiji and schooled in Australia, the 30-year-old featured prominently in the NRC for both Queensland Country and Brisbane City between 2015 and 2019 and made one appearance for the Reds in Super Rugby against the Sunwolves in 2018.
A former Fiji U20 representative, Tela also spent a season in Spain between 2016 and 2017 and played for the Fijian Latui in Global Rapid Rugby last year.
After starring Fiji’s win over the Barbarians at Twickenham following the 2019 World Cup, Tela made his official test debut off the bench against the All Blacks in Hamilton in July.
Hetet, meanwhile, is the youngest of the internationally-capped trio, but his credentials in his brief professional career indicate his quality.
The Kiwi-born loosehead prop made his provincial debut for Waikato in 2018 before shifting to Bay of Plenty, who he currently plays for, last year.
In 2019, Hetet made his debut for the Maori All Blacks, playing in back-to-back matches against Fiji in Suva and Rotorua.
However, the 24-year-old was called into the Fijian squad last year for the Autumn Nations Cup, making his test debut against Georgia in Edinburgh, and won his second cap against the All Blacks in Dunedin earlier this year.
Moana Pasifika added talent and experience to their inaugural playing squad by signing two Hurricanes stars ahead of next year’s Super Rugby Pacific. #MoanaPasifika #SuperRugbyPacific https://t.co/yASxzZKJEH
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 26, 2021
A former Fiji U20 lock, Rarasea has been a constant presence in New Zealand’s provincial scene, having played for Counties Manukau since 2013, but his deal with the Drua presents his first opportunity at Super Rugby level.
At the age of 22, Togiatama is among the youngest players in the Drua squad, but will provide the likes of Dolokoto and Tevita Ikanivere with competition to start at hooker.
Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, a former Fiji U20 utility back who played for the New England Free Jacks in this year’s Major League Rugby, has also been added to the squad, as has local lad Vilive Miramira, a loose forward for Nadi in the Skipper Cup.
Additionally, the Drua have confirmed injured Flying Fijians wing Alivereti Veitokani will be part of the franchise’s wider set-up next year as aims to play for the team in the lead-up to the 2023 World Cup.
The eight-test star, who last played for Fiji at the 2019 World Cup and is a World Sevens Series veteran, was signed with London Irish between 2019 and 2020 and was part of the Drua side that claimed the 2018 NRC title.
“Both Fiji Rugby and the Fijian Drua are committed to player welfare,” Fiji Rugby Union chief executive John O’Connor said of Veitokani’s involvement with the Drua.
“We will help our players overcome serious injury and return to doing what they love. Over the next year, our medical and rehabilitation teams will ease Alivereti back into the game, and we’re confident he’ll be back stronger, faster and even more creative than ever.”
Confirmed Fijian Drua signings for 2022 Super Rugby Pacific
Hookers: Mesulame Dolokoto (Glasgow Warriors), Tevita Ikanivere (Suva), Zuriel Togiatama (Counties Manukau)
Locks: Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta (Tasman), Chris Minimbi (Naitasiri), Isoa Nasilasila (Southern Districts), Viliame Rarasea (Counties Manukau), Ratu Leone Rotuisolia (Sydney University), Sorovakatini Tuifagalele (Suva)
Loose Forwards: Meli Derenalagi (Fiji Sevens), Vilive Miramira (Nadi), Raikabula Momoedonu (Northland), Nemani Nagusa (Nadroga), Rusiate Nasova (Nadroga), Kitione Salawa Jr (Fiji Sevens), Joseva Tamani (NHRU Wildfires)
First-Fives: Napolioni Bolaca (Fiji Sevens), Kitione Taliga (Fiji Sevens), Teti Tela (GPS Old Boys)
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