Fijian Drua name first players in debut Super Rugby Pacific squad
The Fijian Drua have announced the first five members of its inaugural Super Rugby Pacific squad for the 2022 season.
The five players unveiled by the new expansion franchise are 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Napolioni Bolaca, one-test hooker Tevita Ikanivere, Bay of Plenty speedster Onisi Ratave, experienced loose forward Nemani Nagusa and young halfback Simione Kuruvoli.
Bolaca headlines the quintet given his success and experience in the Fijian sevens set-up in recent years.
A utility back in XVs, the 24-year-old was a key member in Fiji’s successful rugby sevens Olympic Games title defence in July and was named in the 2019/20 World Rugby Sevens Series Dream Team after finishing as the series’ top point-scorer that season.
He will be joined in the backline by Ratave, who will be a familiar name to some New Zealand-based Super Rugby fans after setting the early stages of this year’s NPC alight while playing for Bay of Plenty.
The electric winger has scored three tries in just two outings for the Steamers and has been involved in the Fijian sevens squad since last year.
At the age of just 21, Ikanivere, a former Fiji U20 representative, made his test debut in Fiji’s Autumn Nations Cup win over Georgia last November and will look to add to his solitary test cap through his performances with the Drua next year.
Nagusa is by far the most experienced of the five newly-recruited players, having played 18 times for Fiji between 2012 and 2019.
With professional experience with Aurillac in France’s Pro D2 and the Newcastle Falcons in the Premiership, the 33-year-old is set to provide the Drua with valuable experience in its maiden Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
Kuruvoli, meanwhile, is among the youngest of the new signings, but the 22-year-old, another ex-Fiji U20 player, boasts two test caps after playing against Georgia last year and then starting against the All Blacks in Dunedin two months ago.
Interim Fijian Drua chief executive Brian Thorburn said in a statement that he was delighted with the first wave of player announcements, with the remaining 32 players set to be announced over the course of the next several weeks.
“We’re steaming ahead towards our historic first season, and today’s naming signals our intentions – we are going to delight rugby fans with that typical Fijian flair and playing style,” he said.
An All Blacks coach says the work ethic of rookie loose forward Ethan Blackadder should serve as a lesson for those aspiring Kiwi youngsters aspiring for test honours. #AllBlacks #RugbyChampionship https://t.co/vT4Fyxecyi
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“It also underscores our commitment to offer a pathway for Fijian players into Super Rugby. The competition is about to get a whole lot more exciting, and we can’t wait for rugby fans to see our Fijian Drua in action.”
Fiji Rugby general manager high performance unit Simon Raiwalui echoed Thorburn’s sentiments as he emphasised the Drua’s intent of recruiting and developing homegrown talent.
“All five players unveiled today are homegrown and have come through our Fijian Sevens, age group or high performance programmes,” he said.
“It is wonderful to be able to reward these players with a professional contract to play in the world’s best club rugby competition.”
The Drua are also expected to announce its coaching staff in due course with pre-season scheduled to take place in Australia from mid-October.
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