Greg Clark assesses the Drua's look before playing the top of the table Blues this weekend in Super Rugby Pacific Super Round!
When the original Super Rugby Pacific draw was released, the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua had a Round 1 date with the Blues in Auckland. Back then it was thought to be beneficial to play the Kiwis early while they were without some All Blacks and before they got on a roll.
Thanks to Covid and border closures, the Drua now get to play Leon MacDonald’s men in the Super Round in Melbourne this weekend. The timing isn’t great as the Blues are coming off one of their best wins in recent times.
Last start they broke an 18-year drought in Christchurch, knocking over the Crusaders. Many believe the Blues could be the new Kiwi superpower. That’s a big call and I’d prefer to wait and see what happens at the business end of the season.
The Crusaders had a red and yellow card against them and still pushed the Blues all the way. But it was a morale boosting win for the Aucklanders and they look like being one of the top four teams earning a home quarter final.
So, it’s another tough one for the Drua in Melbourne on Saturday. The match follows the Super W Final between the Rooster Chicken Fijiana Drua and the NSW Waratahs Women.
Hopefully the Fijiana Drua can do the business and go through their first season unbeaten. That would certainly give the Fiji men some much needed inspiration as they search for their second win of the season.
The Drua are still in with a mathematical chance of making the Play-offs, just 7 points behind the eighth-placed Force. But time is running out and another one or two losses will see them in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon in their first season.
Each week the message has a familiar ring to it. “The Drua must learn from their mistakes”. It’s been a season of inconsistency so far. The Drua have scored 16 tries in 8 games and some would make the final list for the Try of the Year.
But they’ve also conceded plenty of points and that is a major concern as they come up against the Kiwi sides in coming weeks. Head Coach Mick Byrne says his players have been caught out by the pace of the Super Rugby, leading to mistakes and poor discipline.
He says the Drua go into this week’s Super Round in good shape having had the bye, their first break since assembling in Lennox Head last November. There are still a few injured players and Captain Nemani Nagusa is serving out his suspension, but Byrne says he expects the Drua to put in another performance they can be proud of.
This crop of players grew up watching Super Rugby and witnessing the success of Kiwi teams over the years, and Byrne says it’s now time for the Drua to show what they can do against the New Zealanders.
A big problem over the first half of the tournament has been the forward carries. Byrne wants his runners to be more dynamic and less predictable. With All Blacks scattered all around the park, the Drua must meet fire with fire, and meet the Blues at pace.
I was told to expect a few surprises in the Drua squad for this one, and it certainly is an interesting line up with ten changes in the starting side and some positional changes.
You’d be excused if you thought Coach Byrne was experimenting against the top of the table Blues, resting some key players so they’ll be fresh for the first home game against the Highlanders in Suva the following week.
But it’s a large squad and I don’t mind the fact that some players are getting a chance to impress against the Kiwi heavyweight. Can the new look pack and backline fire? We’re about to find out.
The Drua will start as underdogs, but team Administrators and Management are hoping they put on a show before they head to Suva for the first game on home soil on April 30.
It’s important to head home with some momentum! I’m looking forward to seeing a big crowd at ANZ Stadium to welcome the boys. It’ll be my first trip to beautiful Fiji for some years and I’m really looking forward to calling the first ever Drua home game in Super Rugby. See you there.
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