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Scott Robertson's tribute to Joeli Vidiri after ex-teammate's death

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by David Hallett/Getty Images)

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Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson has offered his condolences to the family of Joeli Vidiri after it was announced on Friday that the former All Blacks wing passed away at the age of 48.

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Vidiri’s death, which was confirmed while the Crusaders defeated the Highlanders 34-19 in Dunedin, came less than 24 hours after the news that another ex-All Blacks wing, Va’ainga Tuigamala, also died at the age of 52.

Tributes have since flowed for both players throughout the rugby fraternity, with Robertson offering his sympathies following his side’s Super Rugby Pacific win at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

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Although they never took to the field together at test level, Robertson and Vidiri were All Blacks teammates in 1998, with both players part of New Zealand’s Tri-Nations squad that year.

They also faced each other numerous times at Super Rugby and NPC level between 1995 and 2001, with Robertson turning out for the Crusaders, Canterbury and Bay of Plenty, while Vidiri played for the Blues, Counties Manukau and Auckland.

Visibly shocked when informed of Vidiri’s passing after the Crusaders match, Robertson told media that he wasn’t aware of the Fijian-born star’s passing.

Robertson added that the pair had roomed together while on All Blacks duty and expressed sadness at the loss of both Vidiri and Tuigamala on the same day.

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“I didn’t [know]. Him and Inga. That’s sort of taken me back a bit,” Robertson said.

“I’ve played with Joeli, with the All Blacks, and we roomed a couple of times so I got to know him on that front. That’s sad. Condolences to his family. Two good men have been taken.”

New Zealand Rugby [NZR] issued a statement on Saturday saying it was mourning the death of Viridi, who played two tests for the All Blacks against England and the Wallabies in 1998.

He also played seven tests for Fiji between 1994 and 1995, won two Super Rugby titles with the Blues in 1996 and 1997, and was a 1998 Commonwealth Games gold medallist with the All Blacks Sevens in Kuala Lumpur.

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“The last 24 hours have been incredibly difficult with the loss of two men who have such standing in rugby and in their communities,” NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said.

“Joeli was a pioneer for Fijian rugby and set the platform for the many Fijian stars who have followed him.

“Together with Jonah Lomu at Counties Manukau, they formed one of the most formidable partnerships we’ve seen, and his performances for the Blues helped put Super Rugby on the map.

“Tonight’s Super Rugby Pacific match will carry added significance as we honour the contributions of both Inga and Joeli to our game. The entire rugby community sends its aroha and thoughts to the families of Joeli and Inga.”

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