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Why no one else in the world plays rugby like Fiji

Believe me, being a diehard fan of Fiji rugby takes its toll on one’s health and personal wellbeing, because 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 focussing on the full XVs version of the game here.

Take the Fiji Drua for example, our locally-based home-grown talent current champions of the National Rugby Championship (NRC) in Australia.

Last year in Suva where they were expected to face their toughest test against the defending champions from Western Australia, the Fiji Drua ran rings around the Perth Spirit, handing out a 42 – 5 drubbing like it was a stroll on the beach.

Yet one week later in Canberra, the Fiji Drua were absolutely thrashed by the Canberra Vikings 66 – 5.

And true to form in Sydney in their very next game a week later, the Fiji boys set the field on fire scoring eight scintillating tries, castrating the Greater Sydney Rams 57 – 31.

Apart from their unexplained capitulation in Canberra, the Fiji Drua exhibited free-flowing rugby from one end of the field to another, captivating 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.

Just over half a century later, one could argue that in an eerily similar way, with rugby union in Australia on its knees in virtually every measure, this Fiji Drua team has been a Godsend to the NRC, bringing enjoyment back to fans in local club grounds around Australia and a wider audience watching on TV; so much so that the Fiji Drua game has featured as the televised match of the round every game they have played.

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

As many Australian 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 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 tropo in paradise; best then to have a bowl of kava and go with the flow to 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; 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 bright orange fireball sinks into the distant horizon, on a beach, village rara or 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.

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.

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

Why? 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 lost – handed over to the opposition.

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

To stay alive he or she 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 and burst away – witness the Nasoko no-look pass to Naduva in the final of the HSBC Hamilton 7s against South Africa.

Every action and every reaction is instinctive first before 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 all afternoon leading up to that point!

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

Imagine, while only a handful of games in an NRL season in Australia are decided in sudden-death extra time, under the white hot pressure of the golden point rule, young rugby players in Fiji are exposed to this high-pressure finish every touch rugby game they play every night in Fiji.

And there you have it; 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.

by Culden Kamea

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