3 months ago

Match Previews

How the Drua look to shape up against the Melbourne Rebels for the second time, written by Greg Clark.

Risk and reward. In sport it’s great when it comes off, but it has to be managed. Just ask Swire Shipping Fijian Drua Head Coach, Mick Byrne.

Reflecting on the Drua’s 20-18 loss to the Western Force last week, Byrne couldn’t hide his disappointment, but he isn’t panicking just yet. It was only the fifth game and the Drua were up by a point when the siren sounded.

It was the first time they’ve been in that position after 80 minutes, but play carried on and the Force kicked a penalty goal to win it. The men from WA showed great patience and picked up 4 very valuable competition points.

The Drua had to settle for a losing bonus point for finishing within 7 points of the Force. Byrne says it’s another tough lesson for his men to learn. Pushing passes and throwing 50-50 balls isn’t the way to close out a game, especially when you’re in opposition territory. Risk and reward! Sometimes it’s safer to be conservative.

The line-out is not where it should be. Individual errors are proving costly so working with the players is a big focus again this week. The scrum is going well and that is one of many positives.

The Drua has now used 34 players in the first five weeks. Giving so many players a taste of Super Rugby Pacific should pay off at the back end of the regular season.

21-year-old Chris Minimbi was the latest to debut and there are others coming back from injury who’ll put their hand up for selection in coming weeks. Flying Fijians Coach Vern Cotter plans to spend time in camp with the Drua shortly, and he must be delighted with the progress many players are making, especially in the backline.

Centres Ravouvou and Vota continue to stand out and winger Habosi is quickly becoming a fan favourite. Ravutaumada is going well on the other wing. Inside backs Lomani and Tela are working well together.

Back row stocks are also looking good and our Home & Living Player of the Match, Joseva Tamani, has slotted into the 6 jersey very nicely when replacing the injured Meli Derenalagi.

The front row isn’t settled yet. This week Zuriel Togiatama gets his first start and Kaliopasi Uluilakepa switches from loose head to tight head, while Jone Koroiduadua returns to the run-on side for the first time since round one.

Sorovakatini Tuifagalele and Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta have been retained as locks and it’s the same back row of Nagusa, Miramira and Tamani. But no one will be completely happy with the forwards until the line out improves.

So, onto round six and the Drua are on the road again. They take on the Rebels on Friday night and they should travel to Melbourne with plenty of belief. After all, they’ve beaten Kevin Foote’s men twice this year – once in a pre-season trial and again when it really counted on the Sunshine Coast in round 3.

But the Rebels were missing key players through injury last time and they’ve welcomed some Wallabies back in recent weeks. They lost to the Waratahs last start but showed glimpses of the form we expect from them.

They still have a long injury list but with Wallabies Jordan Uelese, Matt Philip, Richard Hardwick, Matt To’omua, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Hodge, James Hanson and Joe Powell in the 23, they’ll fancy their chances at home at AAMI Park.

Mick Byrne says the Rebels are much improved and they’ll be very physical early on. It’s imperative that the Drua front up and match them in the opening exchanges.

The Drua still haven’t scored a try in the opening 20 minutes of games. I can’t wait to see what they do when they take a lead into the half time break. They’re scoring most of their points in the second half and have outscored the opposition in the second 40 minutes in their past three games.

Let’s hope Nemani and his men can start well and go on with it.