Greg Clark gives his take on how the Drua shape up for the pacific 'derby' against Moana Pasifika!
What a difference a week makes. This time last week we were still celebrating everything that is good about Rugby in the Pacific Islands. This week it’s back to reality after the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua copped a hammering from the Hurricanes.
The spectacle in Suva between the Drua and Highlanders showed what pride, passion and belief can do to a new sporting team like the Drua. They turned up and used the energy of a crowd filled with family and friends to try to pull off a much-needed win.
They fell short, but the positives outweighed the negatives. All the fans asked for after that was some consistency. Turn up to play, week in and week out. This is one of the toughest comps in the world. Switch off and you are in trouble.
I thought it was going to be hard for the squad that was selected to travel to Wellington and beat the Hurricanes, who were desperate to get back in the winners’ circle and keep pace with the leaders.
But like the Drua coaching staff, I didn’t see a loss by 62 points. Some critics called it an embarrassment after the Suva effort, but it just confirmed to me that if you don’t switch on early against Kiwi teams, things can turn very ugly.
The Drua were coming off a massive high and failed to produce a quality effort despite having a very good training session on the Thursday. Once again, this week they’re learning more about themselves as they strive to compete consistently at the elite level.
No one is making excuses publicly, but things haven’t been easy since the team was forced to move from their base at Lennox Head after the floods. Since then, they’ve been homeless.
Melbourne to Suva, Lautoka, Wellington and the Gold Coast. Now they move to Sydney for this week’s game against Moana Pasifika. Then it’s back to Queensland before travelling to Christchurch via Sydney.
They’ll arrive back in Fiji after that to prepare for the final game in the regular season against the Chiefs from New Zealand. It hasn’t been ideal in recent weeks and maybe that is affecting the players’ mindset.
I saw first-hand just how much being back home in Fiji meant to the players. They were swamped by family, friends and fans. Five months in Australia was a long time to be away.
But they know… we all know… they are better than what they showed in Wellington. Now it’s time for some redemption and this week’s match up should be one of the season’s highlights.
The Drua were always going to target this one. It’s not called Super Rugby Pacific for nothing. After 26 years we now have two teams representing the Pacific Islands in the tournament – the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika.
Bragging rights are up for grabs and neither team wants to end up with the wooden spoon in their debut season. Both are sitting on just one win but they’ve both gone close on several occasions.
Drua Head Coach Mick Byrne believes the two new teams have revitalised Super Rugby by showcasing Pacific Island Rugby. Both will show a real determination to finish the season strongly.
Coach Byrne has named a stronger team this week and some players will be raring to go after a rest last week. Having Lomani, Tela and Ravouvou at 9, 10 and 12 respectively is a great move. They have speed and finishing ability outside them.
Meli Derenalagi retains the Captaincy with Nemani Nagusa returning via the bench. Mesu Dolokoto at flanker might seem to be an interesting selection but he has played there before.
It might be a Drua ‘home’ game, but Moana could end up having more support. Whatever the case, I hope they get a decent crowd despite the kick off time clashing with Sydney Club Rugby.
It’ll be the final game on Aussie soil this year for the Drua as the Round 15 clash against the Chiefs will be played in Lautoka on May 28. Tickets are now on sale and fans have been snapping them up. For those of you in Fiji, tickets are available at:
· Lautoka City Council
· Fijian Drua Store (Port Denarau)
· Jack’s of Fiji outlets: Pier St Suva, MHCC, Damodar City, Rups Mall Nakasi, Sigatoka, Nadi, Votualevu, Lautoka, XL Sports Lautoka, Ba
· Shop N Save outlets: Lautoka Shop 3, Lautoka Market, Namaka, Votualevu, Ba, Tavua, 9 Miles, Nabua, Valelevu.
See you there.
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