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Sungoliath, Reds, Drua all options for Samu Kerevi as contract nears end

By Tom Vinicombe
Samu Kerevi. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

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Samu Kerevi’s time in Japan could be coming to a close – but the Wallabies midfielder is adopting a ‘never say never’ attitude as his current contract with the Tokyo Sungoliath comes to an end.

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Kerevi joined the Sungoliath on a three-year contract following the 2019 Rugby World Cup after earning his stripes with the Reds in Super Rugby and didn’t feature for the Wallabies in 2020 but was recalled to the team by Dave Rennie last season and was one of the side’s top performers, even earning a nomination for World Rugby Player of the Year.

Rennie would undoubtedly love to have the 28-year-old back playing in Australia and alongside and helping to develop some Wallabies teammates in Super Rugby ahead of the 2023 World Cup.

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Dan Carter identifies the keys to success for the All Blacks at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
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Dan Carter identifies the keys to success for the All Blacks at next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Instead, Kerevi has been rubbing shoulders with some of the top players in the world in Tokyo, playing alongside men such as All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie and against an array of foreign stars who now call Japan’s Rugby League One home.

While Kerevi has indicated that a return to Australia could absolutely be on the cards, he’s not necessarily done with Japan just yet.

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“I’m coming off-contract,” Kerevi confirmed this week. “[But] never want to close any doors.

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“Right now, I’m really enjoying my footy here in Japan and with Suntory. They’ve been awesome … They’ve treated me really well and the boys have welcomed me. The type of the rugby we play is enticing. I’ve got to play with Beaudie and now DMac, All Blacks I would have never [had the chance to play with] back home.

“I think the opportunity to play back home will hopefully arise towards the back-end of my contract, which is the next couple of months. I never want to close any doors but at the same time, I’m really enjoying my footy at the moment and just trying to get better.”

In Kerevi’s absence, Hunter Paisami has flourished at the Reds, whether at inside or outside centre, while a number of options from around the country have been trialled in the Wallabies midfield.

Such is Kerevi’s talent that he’d almost certainly walk straight back into a starting role wherever he headed in Australia but he indicated that even though Queensland has always been home for the 28-year-old, there are no guarantees it would be where he would end up.

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“It’s a hard thing to think about, playing outside of Queensland,” he said. “I don’t want to give away too much but I’ve thought about it. If that situation did arise, I don’t know.

“[At] Queensland [it] would be hard to even be selected. They’ve got some amazing centres, young guys coming through. You’ve got Hunter, Jordie [Petaia] – who’s been playing centre and at fullback at the moment, Hamish Stewart’s been doing a great job at 12 there so it would be hard for me to get selected in certain teams.

“If that opportunity did arise for other teams, I’d definitely have a look at it. At the moment, I’m probably enjoying my time at Suntory too much to think that far forward. We’ve got finals coming up in the next couple of weeks, hopefully. Those conversations will happen with my management and Rugby Australia.”

Of course, the one Super Rugby team in Australia that didn’t exist when Kerevi left the nation’s shores back in 2019 is Fijian Drua. Unsurprisingly, their introduction to the competition has piqued the Fijian-born midfielder’s attention.

“It’s been awesome,” Kerevi said. “That’s probably another Super Rugby club I’d go to, to be honest, the Drua. They’re playing some outstanding football. So are Moana Pasifika. You saw the win against the Hurricanes, how much it meant to them. Even the Drua beating Melbourne and coming close to beating the Reds.

“It’s gonna just make Fiji rugby a lot better, bringing through some players from home and I think their game’s just gonna evolve. They’ve got that broken play and Fijian rugby flair, if they just put some structure around that I think they’d be a very dangerous team, the next couple of years.

“It’s about time they had those Pacific Islands come through the Super Rugby competition and it’s good for the competition and good for the islands.”

Kerevi has previously indicated that he harboured ambitions of one day playing for Fiji but after one again playing for Australia last year, it’s difficult to envisage a situation where he can play test rugby for the national side. Playing for the Drua, however, might scratch that same itch.

Kerevi’s Sungoliath currently sit atop the League One ladder with just a handful of rounds left to play before the finals series kicks off next month.

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