The Fijian Drua have today announced five forward and two backline additions to the squad for their inaugural Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
Wave Six player announcements feature seasoned reps and exciting young prospects as the Fijian Drua continue on their maiden voyage to Super Rugby. These include Flying Fijians Mesulame Dolokoto, Teti Tela and Haereiti Hetet, Fijian U20s and Warriors’ star Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, young Nadi standout forward Vilive Miramira, as well as NZ-based Counties Manukau NPC stars Zuriel Togiatama and Viliame Rarasea.
Interim Fijian Drua CEO Brian Thorburn said: “Wave Six announcement sees seven strong additions to our foundation squad for the 2021 season. We are delighted to continue this journey of onboarding players who will etch their name in Fijian Rugby history.”
Thorburn gave further details on the new Fijian Drua players announced today.
“Leading Wave Six as Drua No. 28 is the familiar name of hooker Mesulame Dolokoto. Mesu is one of Fiji’s best hookers, and has consistently featured on most Flying Fijians’ international tours and test matches held in Fiji since his debut. Like most of our squad, he comes through the local Fijian Warriors and NRC Drua pathways. He also brings strong international professional experience as well, given his time with the Glasgow Warriors in Europe and Tasman Makos in New Zealand’s NPC.”
“Drua No. 29 is the very exciting young Fijian flyhalf and fullback Tuidraki Samusamuvodre. He is a star of our game locally, turning up consistently on the Skipper Cup scene following his leading roles with the Fijian U20 and the Fijian Warriors, which include stints as captain. He has recently been playing for the New England Freejacks in the US Major League Rugby, and offers the coaching staff some excellent options in the backline.”
“Drua No. 30, Teti Tela, is another major boost to our backline stocks as a flyhalf or inside centre. Teti has been part of the wider Flying Fijians set-up for a couple of years, and starred in that famous non-test victory for Fiji over the Barbarians in 2019. He also brings Super Rugby experience to the Fijian Drua, given his stint with the Queensland Reds. He has been a part of the NRC rugby circles in Queensland, and his presence will be hugely beneficial to the many young backs we have in our squad.”
“Drua No. 31 is a young local bolter, loose forward Vilive Miramira. His inclusion will surely delight local rugby fans who have followed his progress in domestic age group and senior level competition with Nadi. He has been a standout on the local scene and now has the chance to impress the coaching staff and fight for a place among a big group of loose forwards in our squad. Vilive is a pure domestic product whose hard work and consistency rewards him with a professional Super Rugby contract. We know that it will serve as inspiration for all players in our domestic competitions to keep turning up and grab the attention of selectors for higher honours. This, of course, is one of the key objectives for the Fijian Drua.”
“Drua. No. 32 is young Counties Manukau hooker Zuriel Togiatama. Zuriel comes through the Ardmore Marist Rugby Club in New Zealand and the Counties Manukau Steelers, and has been part of the Chiefs Development Squad. He has solid credentials, and his inclusion creates strong, healthy competition among the hookers in our squad. He is raring to go at Super Rugby level and we look forward to him joining our squad.”
“Drua No. 33, Viliame Rarasea, is another Counties Manukau star who now joins his fellow Fijians in Super Rugby. Viliame came through the Fijian U20s and has featured consistently in New Zealand’s NPC over a number of years. He is another a ball-carrying lock, adding depth to our squad and looking to fight for a place among a solid group of locks.”
“Drua No. 34 is none other than prop Haereiti Hetet. As one of Fiji Rugby’s brightest stars, Hetet brings a yet more valuable international and NPC experience to the Fijian Drua squad and our front row. In addition to NPC experience through Waikato and Bay of Plenty, Hetet has also represented the New Zealand Maori side. As a Flying Fijian, he made a winning debut in the 2020 test in the Autumn Nations Cup against Georgia. His inclusion continues a proud family legacy with Fijian Rugby. Fans will remember his father Joeli Veitayaki as a prominent Flying Fijians prop.”
In addition to the new squad inductees, the Fijian Drua have today also confirmed that injured Flying Fijians, Fijian 7s and NRC Drua star Alivereti Veitokani is part of the wider Drua set-up. The Fijian Drua will organise for Veitokani’s assessment and rehabilitation in 2022, in close partnership with the Fiji Rugby Union. He is slated for a return to top-level rugby with the Fijian Drua for the 2023 Super Rugby season, to be in the frame for selectors’ consideration for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Thorburn added: “Alivereti is absolutely a part of the Fijian Drua vuvale, and we will work with Fiji Rugby to help him on the road to recovery. We know what he is capable of; having starred for the NRC Drua in 2018 and masterminding the side to the championship win. We have an eye on the future in everything we do.”
Fiji Rugby Union CEO John O’Connor also commented: “Both Fiji Rugby and the Fijian Drua are committed to player welfare. We will help our players overcome serious injury and return to doing what they love. Over the next year, our medical and rehabilitation teams will ease Alivereti back into the game, and we’re confident he’ll be back stronger, faster and even more creative than ever.”
O’Connor also welcomed the announcement of new Fijian Drua players, including a large number who progressed from the domestic competition.
“The Drua will focus on being the pathway for our local players. The Coaching panel will closely monitor those in the domestic competition to provide them the opportunity to earn a place in the Fijian Drua and gain a professional contract to play Super Rugby.”
The Fijian Drua have now announced 34 players, with a handful more expected to be confirmed and announced in the coming weeks.