CLARKIE'S CORNER - ROUND 15

CLARKIE'S CORNER - ROUND 15

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Match Previews

Greg Clark provides insight into the Drua's inaugural season and their final fixture at home against the Chiefs.

And then there was just one to go.

Some of the most passionate fans in the Rugby world will cheer for the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua at Churchill Park in Lautoka on Saturday, but sadly it’ll be the end of the inaugural campaign for Head Coach Mick Byrne and his men.

They might be home again, but it hasn’t been an ideal preparation for the week 15 clash against the Chiefs, a top four side from New Zealand. On top of injuries to key players, the medical staff has had to try to restrict the flu from spreading through the entire squad.

Not what you need when you’re preparing to take on a side like the Chiefs who have so much to play for. If they can win their 10th game from 14 starts, they’ll lock in a home quarter final next week.

Despite not being in the race for the play-offs, the Drua are playing for pride and Coach Byrne is looking forward to them showcasing their skills in front of a home crowd one last time in 2022.

Byrne says it’s essential that the Drua have a physical start to the game and keep the pressure on the Chiefs who might find it difficult to handle the Lautoka heat.

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The Drua must get the basics right, something they haven’t been able to manage for long periods in games to date. Apart from making their tackles, they must run hard and catch and pass at pace. Basics!

Byrne says the players need to improve their running game and fitness. Analysis shows that they’re only around 30% of where their fitness levels need to be to manage the pace of Super Rugby Pacific.

Sure, they’ve had their moments. Some of the Drua tries will make the Top tries of 2022 but getting to the ruck at speed and getting around the corner at pace isn’t happening for the full 80.

So Lautoka offers a great opportunity for the Drua to ‘look at the windscreen and what’s in front of them, not the rear-view mirror’. Christchurch is behind them. Now the focus must be on the Chiefs and finishing the season with a flourish.

 

The list of players who have already had season ending operations is not good reading, and Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta hasn’t fully recovered from concussion and will miss the season swansong.

Despite a one-sided scoreboard favouring the Crusaders last week, Coach Byrne says there were a few positives. Defence was good in patches despite them leaking 61 points and the scrum was competitive against a strong pack. But the line-out is still a ‘work on’.

The Chiefs will fancy their chances even though the passionate and vocal crowd will be cheering for the Drua. The men from the Waikato have played Super Rugby in Fiji before and if they handle the heat, they’ll try to run the Drua off their feet.

They’re 9 wins from 13 matches so far and they have the 5th best points differential in the comp. With wins over the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Reds on the road and back to back victories over the Rebels and Force in recent weeks, they can’t be taken lightly.

Congratulations to the 23 who’ll get to represent the Drua in the history-making game in the West. It’s important that they make the most of the opportunity to promote not just the Drua, but also the Rugby pathway that’s now available to aspiring youngsters in the Islands.

After missing the Suva game because of suspension, it’s great that Nemani Nagusa gets the chance to lead his men in Lautoka. He’s part of a big mobile pack who will have to be at their best to gain parity up front.

It’s an exciting backline with Lomani and Tela directing the traffic. We all know how well Ravouvou and Vota combine, and let’s hope the speedsters Habosi, Droasese and Taliga find space to work in.

I like the look of the bench. Expect plenty of impact from the likes of Ikanivere, Dolokoto, Matawalu and Ratave.

Pride is on the line. It’s a long wait between this week and week one next year. The Drua needs to finish with a flourish. Obviously the form guide points towards a Chiefs’ victory, but stranger things have happened.

I hope you can join Lailanie Burnes, Sam Wykes and myself for our final call of the season. I’m really looking forward to my first visit to Churchill Park.

Watch the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua Live

Tickets:  https://drua.rugby/tickets

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