The Magic of Fijian Rugby – Why do Fijians play rugby like no one else in the world?



No other team in the world plays rugby quite like Fijians. Although there is an obvious overlap between how Fijians play rugby 7s and XVs, I am only focusing on the full XVs version of the game here.

Take the Fijiana Drua for example, in this their first year of international exposure playing against Australian State teams in the Super W competition they have simply been too hot to handle – too fast, too tough, too fit – too hot alright!

Whenever one of their players makes a half break, the swarming support play by up to five runners behind the ball carrier has been unstoppable. The Australian Womens teams simply have no answer.

Last week at CBUS Super Stadium where they were expected to face their toughest test against the undefeated NSW Waratahs, the Fijiana Drua ran rings around them, easy 29 – 10 winners.

In general, the Fijian Drua have exhibited equally exciting running rugby with crazy offloads, impossible passes, unbelievable angles – all from their own goal line under immense pressure!

Unpredictably true to form, from one game to the next, the Fijian Drua boys have set the field on fire, scoring 60 – 80M scintillating tries like a walk in the park.

So much so, that previously unknown players with hard-to-pronounce names for the Aussie TV commentators like Miramira, Habosi, Ravouvou, Derenalagi, Ikanivere and Kaliopasi Uluilakepa are now almost household names in rugby circles – and dare I say it, probably among NRL scouts as well.

Apart from their capitulation against the New South Wales Waratahs last weekend, the Fijian Drua have exhibited free-flowing rugby from one end of the field to another, captivating Australian TV commentators and fans alike with their high-tempo, high-speed and high-energy brand of running rugby.

For those old enough to remember, the national Fiji teams of the early 1950s, playing a similar brand of exciting running rugby, packed in the crowds in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, which some say saved the game of rugby union in Australia.

Six decades later with rugby union in Australia on its knees by virtually every measure, the Fijian and Fijiana Drua have been a Godsend to their respective rugby championships, helping to draw fans back to rugby grounds around Australia and on TV; so much so that footage from their games have featured in the televised highlights every round.

So why and where does this crazy brand of Fiji rugby come from?

As many tourists know, Fiji is a laid back holiday destination; so laid back in fact, it has a time zone of its own – affectionately known as “Fiji time”.

Seasoned travellers to Fiji and even friendly locals will warn you to embrace and get used to “Fiji time”, or risk facing total meltdown as your holiday schedule counts for very little and more often than not, goes “totally troppo” in paradise.

Best then to have a bowl of kava and go with the flow to truly enjoy your holiday and have any hope of unravelling this global rugby mystery.

In fact, the answer is all around you and plain to see at the right time of day.

It is usually after the kids have returned from school, the farmers from their teitei and the fisherman home from the sea in the coolest part of the day, as the orange fireball sinks into the distant horizon; on a beach, village rara, virtually any patch of ground all over Fiji.

Young and old alike drift in and out of teams of 3 or 4, or 50 or more, in ongoing games of touch rugby Fiji-style where no one keeps score; no one keeps score because what’s the point? It’s all about enjoyment like how the Storm whacked the Bulldogs 44 nil on Saturday.

Touch rugby in Fiji is all about outrageous offloads, NBA passes, silky line breaks, blinding speed and swarming support for the ball carrier out of the darkness of the encroaching night.

In his time, MJ talked about being in the zone – yeah it’s something like that – hard to explain but everything just falls into place!

It is in these games where raw young talent is nurtured – not coached, to play purely on instinct; to throw that outrageous pass, or take the line break knowing that support is looming at exceptionally high speed.

Because, unlike touch rugby played anywhere else in the world, touch rugby in Fiji is one touch and you’re dead – one fatal touch, or even the claim of a touch and the ball is handed over to the opposition.

As such, a player would rather die young than die with the ball in hand.

To stay alive he only has time to act on instinct – think and you die; there is simply not enough time to consider your next move. Just throw the pass and someone will be there to take it – witness the Pita Gus Sowaikula no-look pass to a Chiefs teammate for their try against the Hurricanes on Sunday.

Every action is instinctive not coached and that’s why it is so fast, so unpredictable and so exciting.

One more unique feature about touch rugby on Fiji time; it all boils down to the last try of the day that wins the game, no matter what has happened leading up to that point!

It is the exciting madness of the golden point rule that decides the winner in every touch rugby game in Fiji.

Imagine, only a handful of games in an NRL and now Super Rugby Pacific season are decided in sudden-death extra time, under the white hot pressure of the golden point rule.

Meanwhile, young players in Fiji are exposed to this high-pressure finish every touch rugby game they play every night in Fiji.

And that ladies and gentlemen is why no one else in the world plays rugby quite like Fiji – the secret is out and long may the chaos theory thrive in rugby paradise!

Go Fiji Go.

For the Podcast – I’m Culden Kamea.

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