Promoting the Times Fiji : The World's Greatest
Updated: Jul 5, 2021
Fiji Captain Osea Kolinisau nods in excitement as he glances back and down the Fiji team line; Player of the Decade Jerry Tuwai, the beastly Masivesi Dakuwaqa and ‘The Bus’ Josua Tuisova in frame, revved up and absolutely consumed. Apisai Domolailai in true Viti fashion pipes up with a Fijian War Cry, joined by The Boys, as the Great Britain team emerge to line up next to the Fiji Olympians. These were the first moments of the Gold Medal match in the 2016 Summer Olympics, aired live to the Fiji Islands, where you can bet every television screen in its City, Coastal and Highland regions were tuned in for thousands of wide eyed and hopeful Fijians. The World’s first Rugby Champs were moments into making history with big hearts, bigger frames and a Redhead.
Ben Ryan or Tu Peni
The former 7’s Rugby England coach exchanged the world class pitches of his UK home for the hot Sigatoka Sand Dunes, and we are convinced it was worth every session. The God-sent took on the challenge of coaching the immensely talented Men’s 7s team, and we watched as he became one of them himself - complete with proper sunburns, Fiji Rugby wrist bands and a Fijian hymn book. Tu Peni who would also be seen singing his heart out during the team Lotu (devotion), became synonymous with the team’s structure and discipline, as Lotu instills in us.
In an interview an emotional Ben Ryan remarked, “There is definitely something about our journey that’s got fate involved, and I think we will be lucky in Rio”, and as fate would have it, their story is second to none. The legend makers - Ben Ryan and the boys, in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston’s destruction, and in honor of roofless communities with single working TV’s who are cheering them on, did not disappoint. The victors won the 2015 Las Vegas 7’s, Hong Kong 7’s, the 2015-2016 Rugby 7’s Series and were the hot favorites for the Olympics.
The game of Rugby 7’s brings the nation to a standstill. On 11th August 2016, what was any other 20 minutes to the rest of the world, had us on our feet and in an emotional roller-coaster as we followed each play and gave advice to the boys – whether they heard us or not was irrelevant. We are all quite the avid off-field ‘Play Maker’, and backing the boys up meant everything else simply stopped while we were all in Rio that day.
Unlike other participating countries, the team’s resources left a lot to be desired. However, much like coconut juice was substituted for special and expensive hydration drinks, sometimes random tree trunks for gym weights and beaches for pools; these special tokens made that much of a difference for the Fiji 7’s team. A Golden difference that saw the team prepare and personalize their chance to win gold. It was not just a game anymore to them. In their hearts they were sent by their country as a ‘Toa ni Valu’ - an iTaukei term used in warship to reference warriors.
As in the i-Taukei tradition, the team not only represented their country, they also represented the strength of their genealogy and ancestry. In honor of the Inaugural Men's Rugby Olympic Champs, we acknowledge their Vanua (origins).
Image supplied by Bruce Southwick, Zoom Fiji
Back (L-R): JOSUA TUISOVA - Votua, Ba, SAMISONI VIRIVIRI - Dratabu, Nadi, JASA VEREMALUA - Korotogo, Nadroga, CAPTAIN OSEA KOLINISAU - Namuka-i-lau, Lau, APISAI DOMOLAILAI - Laselase, Nadroga, VATEMO RAVOUVOU - Muaira, Yasawa, MASIVESI DAKUWAQA - Lasakau, Bau.
Front (L-R): KITIONE TALIGA - Dratabu, Nadi, VILIAME MATA - Nauluvatu, Tailevu, SEMI KUNATANI - Naveyago, Nadroga, LEONE NAKARAWA - Mokoisa, Kadavu, JERRY TUWAI - Buca, Cakaudrove, SAVENACA RAWACA Navatu, Bua.
The World’s Greatest
A stroll through the residences of Fiji on an afternoon, can have one thinking they’ve wound up in an improvised rugby camp. In fact an afternoon passing the ball around is called “going training”, in local lingo – “tereni”. Dare we say, Fiji the country has been training for this honor since the sport first hit our shores; producing rugby greats with inherent flair like a factory line. Notwithstanding the prestige of the title ‘Olympic Champions’, the big and flamboyant Fijians have rightfully claimed a bounty of world titles, placing Fijians as a token race for rugby naturals. What a weighted stereotype to carry - if you’re a Fijian you can probably play rugby. Oh what a burden!
Dubbed the ‘Flying Fijians’ in the early 1900’s for their speed and flight-like breaks, the development of Rugby Union into Rugby 7’s one can say was a match (forgive the pun) made in heaven. Hailing marvels such as the ‘Maestro’ Waisale Serevi, Tomasi Cama Snr, Marika Vunibaka, Manasa Bari, Vilimoni Delasau and Sireli Bobo to name a few, we can all agree that there is no end to this list of fames. To the fraternity of legends and their country folk, the game of rugby is a challenge of flair, and the stuff of dreams. Surely, making history in the 2016 Summer Olympics were in the cards.
The BIG WIN!
Leading 36 points to nil with 5 minutes remaining on the clock, coach Ben Ryan began making changes to let every one of the boys play. After a parade of awesome tries and nifty foot work, team Fiji was on Cloud 7’s - a moment in history we will never forget. The cameras panned the stands and field as fans alongside the Women’s Team were seen celebrating, lost for words and in disbelief. The final whistle blows at 43 points to 7, and we see the emotional players on their knees in prayer, grins as wide as a rugby ball and the Brit redder than usual congratulating his boys - “…You’re an Olympic Champion”.
Of course what they can do as a team better than rugby, they can sing! Olympic gold medals around their necks and heads lifted up, their iconic male choir voices filled the Deodara Stadium with songs of praise to their Maker – “E da sa Qaqa…We have Overcome”.
Back home, thousands were glued to their TV’s, and in a trance of celebration, as they awed at their heroes who were literally on top of the world. On their knees in traditional respect for royalty, the humble Fijian giants thanked Her Royal Highness The Princess Anne with a ‘Cobo’ (Fijian cupped hand clap), as she awarded their medals. A real icing-on-the-cake dedication to their origins, and to the world; hard to beat!
After their mile of a win in Rio 2016 to claim the Olympic title, and crashing the internet – yes that happened! the team was bound for even greater heights. Securing a grand sponsorship, and now dubbed the Nike Fiji Sevens Rugby side, it’s indeed a rags to riches story. Looking neat in the Nike Swoosh, the 2020 Fiji Rugby Team march on in a set fit for Champs, and we could not be prouder. Despite their reasons to fail, Fiji has built a reputation to [with style] Just Do It!
In the wake of a rampant Covid-19 wave in Fiji, the teams have an opportunity ahead of them to do what they do best for their country – Bring Joy and Inspire. Winning a match and watching a good game by our Fiji teams have long been a source of togetherness for us, and a patriotic reminder that we are resilient and we Win. Covid-19 has in it’s path created an environment of desperation for Fiji, and seeing the White Jerseys dominate on the field picks us up as a Nation. We're excited to see them play and are proud of their Valor - Fiji Tu Ga!
Congratulations to the 2020 Olympic Rugby Sevens Team, as they carry our Challenge to the World. Our Prayers are with You All.
Image supplied by Fiji Rugby
Vanuinui Vinaka (All the Best)
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