Three exciting players have been added to the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua roster as the side amps up preparations for Super Rugby Pacific 2022.
Suva halfback Leone Nawai grabs the third halfback spot in the squad as Drua # 35, New Zealand flyhalf Baden Kerr becomes the squad’s first non-Fiji eligible player to provide injury cover and depth in the crucial playmaker role as Drua # 36, while it’s a welcome return to rugby for former New Zealand Warriors winger Selestino Ravutaumada as Drua # 37.
Fijian Drua CEO Brian Thorburn welcomed the three new Drua squad members to the vuvale.
“Leone joins other Fijian Drua players who have earned their place through consistency, patience and hard work on the domestic scene. He has played in the Deans competition, the Fijian Under 20s, in the Skipper Cup as well as the Fijian Latui. He is already familiar to much of the playing group. It’s always special for our Club to have a homegrown talent rising through the ranks of our domestic and representative pathways to make it into our squad.”
On Kerr, Thorburn said: “I would like to tackle the issue of having our first international non-Fiji eligible player straightaway, by assuring our fans and stakeholders that this was a considered decision in light of a number of factors, and made in the best interest of the team.”
“To start with, our first choice Fijian specialist flyhalves are all under an injury cloud, with one, Alivereti Veitokani ruled out for the 2022 season already with a major knee injury. Caleb Muntz is undertaking rehab from shoulder surgery. Teti Tela is undertaking light training only as he recovers from an Archilles tendon rupture. By the time he is ready to take part in full training, it will be pretty close to the start of the season. We have an urgent need clearly to get an experienced, quality flyhalf into the squad and into full training as the Coaching Team maps out our game plans for the season.
“Secondly, alongside our flyhalf injury concerns, our Coaching team has spent recent months analysing our squad strengths. We clearly have a need for a flyhalf like Baden to mentor our remaining halves options who are new to Super Rugby and returning from extended stints in 7s. While they’ll get used to this environment in no time, we want to make an impact right from our very first match on 19 February. The Coaching staff settled on Baden as an ideal addition to the squad given his excellent game management and accurate goal kicking.”
The CEO added: “We have said from the beginning that the Club is committed to bringing Fijian and Fiji-eligible players to Super Rugby, but will have the occasional need to add international players, or ‘jokers’, as cover for injuries and where experience and specialist skills are vital.”
Swire Shipping Fijian Drua Head Coach Mick Byrne said: “Just like our fans, we want our game-plan based around fast, powerful and adventurous plays. We need a flyhalf with experience at this level to keep our pack moving forward with tactical kicking and unleash our backline at every opportunity. Baden has the right set of skills to meet this requirement.”
“It’s exciting for us to have him in our Drua squad to reinforce that crucial playmaker position. He brings valuable top-level experience into our squad having played in Super Rugby, the English Premiership, NZ’s National Provincial Championship and Japan. Player welfare is paramount for our Club; we will not rush our injured players back, whilst keeping up the momentum heading into our first season. Baden’s experience will also be excellent mentorship for other flyhalf options Napolioni Bolaca, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre and Kitione Taliga.”
Byrne added: “Successful Super Rugby teams play the game in the right part of the field, and Baden ticks all the boxes with a set of skills – adventurous play, tactical kicking and accurate goal kicking. He is already used to being part of a squad with players from the Fiji and Pacific Islands, so we’re confident he’ll adjust to the Drua environment.”
32-year old Kerr brings an impressive resume to the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua’s 2022 Super Rugby campaign. He represented Counties Manukau from 2010 to 2014 and joined the Blues for the 2012 Super Rugby season. After a short stint with the England-based Bedford Blues in 2015, Kerr joined the Saracens in July 2016 before returning home to Counties Manukau team for the 2017 season. Kerr boosted the Honda Heat squad in Japan’s Top League competition from 2018 to 2020, before returning home to Counties Manukau for the Bunnings NPC (NZ).
Drua # 37 Selestino Ravutaumada joins the squad after a stint in Rugby League with the Junior Kiwis and the New Zealand Warriors. He takes up one of the outside back positions in the squad.
Added Thorburn: “Selestino adds to the competition for spots among our outside backs with his power and speed. He is a product of the Deans competition in Fiji through Marist Brothers High School and was recruited into New Zealand’s schoolboy competition before jumping across to Rugby League. After a couple of seasons with the New Zealand Warriors, he makes a welcome return to top level rugby after a successful 2021 season with Hamilton Old Boys in the Waikato. An important part of our recruitment in the outside backs is utility to cover both wing and fullback positions, which Selestino is equally adept at.”