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3 months ago

Match Previews

What a week it’s been for the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua. Greg Clark provides insight into the squad facing the Brumbies and the performance in round 7 against the Waratahs.

What a week it’s been for the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua. A red card followed by a suspension, a yellow card, not enough tries, missed tackles, Covid and unfortunately another loss.

We’ve reached the halfway point in the regular season and while the Drua’s fans hoped things would be different by now, it’s another stark reminder of how tough Super Rugby Pacific can be.

Rugby is a collision sport and accidents happen. World Rugby has instructed match officials to clamp down on dangerous play and we’re seeing more red cards for contact to the head/neck.

It’s hard to argue against Nemani Nagusa’s red under the current guidelines. But I feel he’s been treated harshly with his 4-week suspension.  Some red card recipients got 3 weeks, but they slapped Nemani with an extra week as a ‘deterrent to this contact’. 

Nemani can have the final week substituted by undertaking some coaching by a World Rugby Expert Review Panel. At 33 years old, he now must learn how to tackle correctly. So, while he might actually only sit out three games after all, it means he’ll still miss the long awaited homecoming in Suva on April 30.

Head Coach Mick Byrne is feeling better this week after his Covid isolation, but he wasn’t happy with Nagusa’s red, and he was disappointed that Frank Lomani didn’t learn from his two previous warnings before being penalised for a third time and issued with a yellow card. Discipline needs to be better. 

The Drua started much better against the Waratahs, and it was 7-all when the first card came out. The Tahs then made the most of their advantage and there was to be no fairy-tale comeback in the second half, with a winning margin of 24 points… the 24 unanswered points they piled on while the Drua had players off the field.

Instead, the fairy-tale was snapped up by Wallaby skipper Michael Hooper who marked his long awaited return to the Waratahs with a well taken try. Vinaya Habosi scored the Drua’s first half try to further enhance his growing reputation and popularity. Rusiate Nasove got the other 5 pointer in the second half.

So it’s been another week of learning for the Drua. They’ve been putting in the hard yards on the training paddock again this week, and they’re remaining upbeat despite the 1 from 7 form line so far.

Coach Byrne says the thing that keeps the group very tight is the fact that they know they have the ability to compete, providing they play to their potential. But they’re yet to put in a complete 80-minute effort in their first year.

This week’s clash against the top of the table Brumbies is another crucial encounter. Not just for competition points, but the Drua has a bye next week and they need to take some momentum into the upcoming clashes against Kiwi teams.

Drua officials are hoping they get great support from the fans around Southeast Queensland on Saturday night as it’s the last time they’ll see the Drua in Brisbane this year, certainly in the regular season.

Crowd numbers have been down. Covid and wet weather have taken a toll, but it’s important to get out and support the team in its initial season. Fiji fans are great but there just haven’t been enough of them in the stands.

Which leads me to the big game in Suva on April 30. The Drua returns home to host the Highlanders from Otago. Wouldn’t it be great to see the ‘House Full’ sign. If you haven’t purchased your ticket yet you can do so by visiting a Post Fiji store or the Fiji Sports Council. Don’t miss out.

There are big changes to both teams for Saturday night’s clash at Suncorp Stadium. The Drua have five changes in the pack and two players returning to the backline, Api Vota and Selestino Ravutaumada. Kalaveti Ravouvou has been rested.

With Nemani suspended, Meli Derenalagi returns to the side and takes over the captaincy. There could be a further two debutants coming off the bench as well.

The Brumbies have also made changes and it’s a major milestone for Wallaby prop James Slipper who will play his 150th Super Rugby game. Cameron Clark, Like Reimer, Billy Pollard, Tom Hooper and Ed Kennedy get to start for the first time in a Brumbies jersey.

It’s another double header with Fijiana Drua playing the Brumbies in Super W. A shout out to the Fijiana who are the only unbeaten team in the competition. Their win over the previously unbeaten Waratahs women was fantastic last week.

I’ll be calling all the Super Rugby Pacific action with Lailanie Burnes and Sam Wykes, our last so called ‘home’ game until Suva on April 30. I hope you can join us.

Watch the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua Live


Broadcast (Super Rugby Pacific Regions): Fiji (FBC, Sky Pacific); Australia (Stan, Nine); New Zealand (Sky TV); Pacific Islands (Digicel)

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