The Fijian Drua believe they can go all the way after securing the Australian National Rugby Championship’s Minor Premiership.
The Drua confirmed top spot in the NRC regular season after a come-from-behind 33-28 victory over the Western Force in Perth on Saturday.
The visitors trailed 14-0 after ten minutes and didn’t trouble the scorers until four minutes from half-time, when Levani Kurumudu finished off a length-of-the-field effort following a turnover.
The Drua drew level nine minutes into the second spell through left winger Aporosa Tabulawaki and took the lead in the 56th minute when fullback Enele Malele intercepted a pass and ran 70 metres to the tryline.
The Force struck back with a second try to former Wallabies wing Rod Davies before captain Mosese Voka and Alifereti Veitokani responded in kind to give the Drua a 12 point buffer, with the hosts managing a consolation try on fulltime.
Coach Senirusi Seruvakula was proud of the performance from his players in match they had to win to earn a home semi final.
“We need to understand that the Drua they’re local players and we believe the competition is not strong here in Fiji and to be playing against (former) Super Rugby teams and Super Rugby players that’s a big, massive development from last year,” he said.
“This is a massive achievement for Fiji Rugby and especially these local players performing in this level so this is what the Fiji Rugby Union has to look at into our [ocal] competitions and make it stronger here in Fiji.
“And also these guys for their pathway going up to the Flying Fijians or securing a contract overseas.”
The Drua were knocked out in the semi-finals in their inaugual NRC campaign in 2017 but Senirusi Seruvakula believes this time they can go all the way.
“Now they realise that we only lost one game [away to Queensland Country] and we’ve played all the teams in the NRC so if we can keep on doing what we’re doing I think this will be a good year for the Drua.”
“Last year was not a good year for us when we were going towards the semi-final and we lost some of our experienced players going to the Flying Fijians but this year it’s different, they’re all going to be here, so that’s a big bonus for us going into the semi final.”
As top qualifiers, the Fijian Drua will host the fourth-placed Canberra Vikings in the first NRC semi final in Lautoka on Saturday.
The teams clashed at the same Churchill Park venue less than two weeks ago, with the Drua letting a 26 point lead slip before recovering to sneak home 40-35, in a match Senirusi Seruvakula labelled “very disappointing”.
“I think it’s a big boost for them also the way they played here but we just need to prepare well and focus to what we want to do on Saturday,” he said.
“We just need to improve on our set pieces, that’s the main area we need to work on – on our lineouts and on our scrum – and discipline when we have the ball and when we defend and that’s still a learning from the start for us.”
Defending champions Queensland Country will host the Western Force in the second semi-final on Sunday afternoon.