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Fijiana Drua become unlikely champions

The Fijiana Drua having their last training run on Friday before the finals of the Super W against Waratahs. Picture: Fiji Rugby Union

A warning was sounded by the Fijiana Drua after winning the Super W Rugby Championship on Saturday. They beat the Waratahs 35-26. They bedazzled not only their opponents but had spectators in awe. They ran round the defense – there was free running rugby and crazy offloads. Now the focus is to take that brand of rugby to the World Cup.

It was the Fijiana Drua’s first year in any competition. And they managed to come out victors and stay unbeaten from their first game. Most of the players have been playing rugby for less than three years and some only one year. A few were playing football and some either netball, basketball or athletics.

The eyes of rugby gurus have shifted onto the Fijian women. This weekend they face the Wallaroos, the Australian women’s rugby team. The Fijian women don national colours and their performance against Australia should be a warning to the rest of the world.

Coach Senirusi Seruvakula said the belief to win was among the players and he intends to build on that as the team transitions to international games and the World Cup in October in New Zealand.

“This is big for us and I am proud of the girls. No one predicted that we would be in the finals,” Seruvakula said.

Much of the Fijiana Drua’s style can be accredited to Seruvakula. The coach was first charged to train the team that would later come to be know the Fijian Drua. Seruvakula’s style of rugby led the Fijian Warriors to win the National Rugby Championship in only their second year.

However, he was not given the nod to take charge of the Drua men when they entered the Super Rugby franchise. With a number of unknown talents, he has proven what it takes to coach a champion side.

For the many Fijiana Drua players, their style of play has innovated the game in the Super W competition. Unlike their male counterparts, the Fijiana Drua are not paid hefty salaries, only allowances which cover their weekly costs. But despite all the odds stacked against them, the Fijiana Drua women have shown that the rugby story of the year is theirs.

A hard three months

The Fijian Drua captain Bitila Tawake said it was not easy for the young women during the last three months. For some players, this was their first trip out of the country.

A few players over the last few months have told stories of scrounging for bus fares to make it to training. Tawake said the players knew of the sacrifices each had to make to become a player in the Fijian Drua, followed by their journey in the Super W.

The Fijiana Drua having their last training run on Friday before the finals of the Super W against Waratahs. Picture: Fiji Rugby Union

Even Tawake’s own journey has its own story. A former basketball and netball player, Tawake started playing rugby in 2020 while studying in Australia. Her father, the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Navy, Humphrey Tawake, said he only found out that Bitila was playing the sport after watching a sports clip.

He said he respected his daughter’s decision to play rugby, and supported her. The win by the Fijiana Drua will definitely see more young Fijian girls playing the sport.

An exodus of talent is already being felt by major female sports such as netball and athletics.

The Fijiana Drua having their last training run on Friday before the finals of the Super W against Waratahs. Picture: Fiji Rugby Union

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer John O’Connor said a standard was set, and it means a lot for the participation of women and girls in rugby in the country. He said FRU was already on the path to uplift women’s rugby in Fiji.

The Prime Minister of Fiji, Voreqe Bainimarama, took time to talk about the stellar performance on the weekend. He hinted at more support for women sports.

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