Former NRL star Semi Radradra wasn’t expecting a warm welcome in San Francisco but he’s quickly realising just how far support for the Flying Fijians reaches.
In the heart of downtown San Francisco, a special event was put on just for the Fijian sevens team yesterday.
It included a traditional vakamalolo welcome by Fijian warriors who have spent the week flying the flag with public performances – an effort Radradra says hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“It’s pretty good to see all the fans have been supporting us, the Fiji team everywhere we go,” he told 1 NEWS.
“We know that the Fiji community is very strong and we’d like to thank them for their support.”
In addition to Radradra, Fiji are pulling out the big guns for this weekend’s World Cup.
There’s Josua Tuisova, another of the four players released by European clubs where they command million-dollar salaries.
It’s a stark contrast to rugby in New Zealand with Kiwi star Vilimoni Koroi held back by Otago to prepare for the Mitre 10 Cup.
Fijian coach Gareth Baber thanked clubs for supporting the campaign.
“Each of the clubs that I contacted almost a year back – obviously coming into this they realised how important it was for these players.”
The Flying Fijians have spent nine days training at high altitude in Utah, hoping the extra endurance training will give them an edge after they ran out of puff in their shock Commonwealth Games final loss to New Zealand.
Baber said the extra training had other perks too.
“We obviously trained at altitude but it gave us an opportunity to get the boys in a quiet space, get a bit of focus.”
With the Blitzbokke missing six front line troops, Fiji and New Zealand are fancied to feature in the final.