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‘I'm done’: Fiji’s Jerry Tuwai reflects on stunning sevens comeback

By Finn Morton
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 10: Jerry Tuwai of Fiji celebrate after scoring a try during day 2 of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 Championship Quarter Finals match 27 between Samoa and Fiji at DHL Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

When Fiji named their squad for the SVNS Series Grand Final in Madrid, it was nigh on impossible to look past the significance of Jerry Tuwai’s selection. Sevens fans the world over thought Tuwai’s career was likely over, and so did the man himself.

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The two-time Olympic gold medallist was overlooked by former coach Ben Gollings earlier in the 2023/24 season, with the Englishman reportedly putting it down to Tuwai not being fit enough to play on the SVNS Series.

New boss Osea Kolinisau, who won Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Games with Tuwai, didn’t select his old teammate either for events in Hong Kong China or Singapore. But with it all to play for in Madrid, Tuwai was recalled into Fiji’s touring squad.

With the top eight men’s teams embarking on a quest for overall SVNS Series glory in the Spanish capital, both the experience and skill that Tuwai brings is going to be invaluable.

The veteran was an unused substitute against New Zealand but he’s still making an impact on a group that has struggled for consistency this season.

After sneaking past New Zealand 28-26 in a thriller, the Fiji players disappeared down the tunnel and grouped together for a huddle. Initially, coach Kolinisau led a prayer and the team talk before all players turned to Tuwai who had the final say.

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Tuwai stopped for a moment to speak about the match. While speaking with this writer, the rest of the Fiji squad waited for the sevens icon before walking together as one over to the changerooms at Civitas Metropolitano.

But while the Fijian players waited, Tuwai – who will look to win a third Olympic gold medal from as many Games in Paris later this year – made a stunning admission about his SVNS Series career.

“For the past few tournaments, I thought, ‘I’m done, that’s me’,” Tuwai told RugbyPass. “I thought the (London) Sevens last year was my last tournament, that’s what I thought.

“You have different plans but God has another plan for us and maybe this one and maybe the next big thing. I don’t know. Only God knows.”

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While the Fijian players waited for Tuwai, practically every player had a big grin stretched across their face. They weren’t getting ahead of themselves, as coach Kolinisau seemed to stress in the team huddle, but Fiji had just beaten traditional rivals New Zealand.

The All Blacks Sevens went bang-bang with Moses Leo and Tepaea Cook Savage both scoring inside the opening few minutes. New Zealand powered on and went on to take a 19-7 lead into the half-time break.

But Fiji looked like the Fiji of old from that moment on. Terio Tamani scored in the ninth minute before Ponepati Loganimasi crossed for a crucial double. Longanimasi’s second try allowed Iowane Teba to line up a match-winning conversion from the sideline.

It went over. Fiji won 28-26.

“Thank God for that. I think it’s very special. We’ve been losing for a long time and everyone has been disappointed in Fiji – families and especially us, we’ve been disappointed about the performance in the past (tournaments),” Tuwai explained.

“To win against a very good team, a team that has been performing in the Series like New Zealand, it’s a big thing for us.

“It shows us that we’re doing some smart things right and it pushes us to become better players and a good team for the next game.”

Catch all of the SVNS Madrid action live and free on RugbyPass TV. To watch the Grand Final, register HERE.

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Turlough 1 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

“You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.” Agree with this. If you can put a common motivating idea in all your players heads during a game it can produce a real Team perfromance. Erasmus is pretty expert at this. It is quite clear that the comments by Etzebeth, Allende and others were not coincidence and were actioned to create animoisty before the series in order to galvanise the South African mind set. While I understand it, I don’t like it. They result in unnessary vitriol between supporters and for what? I don’t think any of the SA players seriously believe any of these claims and with Ireland ignoring them Erasmus won’t get the escalation he seeks. The vitriol shown by some SA and indeed NZ supporters is extremely weird for NH supporters (OK, maybe England have felt it) but it just feels very odd over a sport. Ireland were more or less sh1t for the first 100 years of their rugby, they have improved significantly in the last 25 to be in a position around now (it may not last) to go into a match with the big guns with a real shot of winning. The reaction to this from some SH supporters has been bizarre with conspiracy theories of ‘Arrogance’ fueling abuse from supporters and even NZ players to Irish crowds during the world cup. I love International rugby and the comraderie between supporters. I genuinely dread and dislike the atmosphere around games with the southern giants. They take this very personally. NH teams: play them, try and beat them, enjoy the craic with their players and supporters and wish them well. SH teams wish them well and they call you arrogant in the press months later. Its just a matter of try and beat them and then good riddance til the next time.

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