New Drua signing is 'immense' and a 'household name' in Fiji
Fijian Drua this week released the names of five new recruits ahead of the 2022 Super Rugby season, but one player, in particular, stands out.
Last week the new Super Rugby side confirmed the signing of five new players, despite having agreed terms with 20 players to date. This week they confirmed another five, including sevens star Ratu Meli Derenalagi, as well as Flying Fijian and ex-NRC Drua stalwart Serupepeli Vularika, Namosi’s Vinaya Habosi, Suva prop Meli Tuni and NPC Premiership winning Tasman Mako forward Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta.
Fijian Drua have committed itself to naming the remaining 27 members of its squad for the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific competition before departing for Australia next month.
Ratu Meli Derenalagi – nicknamed the ‘White Shark’ – got a special mention from both Fijian Drua Interim CEO Brian Thorburn and Fiji Rugby Union’s General Manager of the High Performance Unit, Simon Raiwalui.
“Ratu Meli Derenalagi needs no introduction as a household name in Fiji, a former 7s captain and an Olympic gold medallist. We have no doubt he will thrive as a Super Rugby loose forward under the guidance of Head Coach Mick Byrne and other coaching staff,” said Thorburn.
Raiwalui was equally enthusiastic about the signing of the 23-year-old Nadi backrow, who stands 6’5 and weighs 97kg.
“At just 23, Ratu Meli’s contribution to Fijian rugby has already been immense,” said Raiwalui. “With his speed and ball-handling skills, he adds dynamism to the squad as a backrow forward or as a scrum anchor. His aerial skills make him a decent line-out option as well.”
There was also mention for the Drua’s other new recruits.
Thorburn has however admitted that the side will have to contract a number of players who are not eligible to play for Fiji, into the team.
“There is a possibility that we may seek to contract a very small number of players who are not eligible for Fiji in the first year or two, but only to fill positions where we do not have adequate depth from Fiji players. Our intention is to only recruit players who are already capped for Fiji, or who are eligible to play for Fiji.
The purpose of the Fijian Drua is to give the national union a Southern Hemisphere professional side that will centralise emerging Fijian talent, players who would be otherwise spread across professional rugby competitions around the globe, with the ultimate goal of improving the national team. This of course has to be balanced against limited financial resources and the need to be competitive in next year’s Super Rugby season, when they will be playing some of the best sides in the world.
FIJIAN DRUA SQUAD SO FAR: Meli Derenalagi, Serupepeli Vularika, Meli Tuni, Vinaya Habosi, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Napolioni Bolaca, Tevita Ikanivere, Nemani Nagusa, Simione Kuruvoli and Onisi Ratave.
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