Destined for 7s stardom
1 April, 2018, 12:00 am
HE caught the eye of former Fiji coach Ben Ryan and now Sakeo Raloa is bound for next week’s GFI HKFC Tens.
Raloa, one of five contracted Fiji Sevens who will line up for defending champions UBB Gavekal, prompted Ryan to tweet “I think we might have seen the next sevens star here today — Sakeo Raloa” during January’s Coral Coast Sevens in Sigatoka.
Winger Samu Bale will line up alongside Raloa and has fond memories of the Hong Kong Football Club after scoring four tries in his side’s successful 2017 campaign and making his Fiji debut a month later.
Dangerous back Leveni Kurimalawai and forwards Keponi Paul and Vasikali Mudu round out the Fijian fivesome, with Mudu riding high after making his World Series debut in Las Vegas in February.
Last year, Bale and three other Fiji Sevens backs — Lemeki Tulele, Josua Vici and Glen Cakautini — scored 12 tries between them as UBB defied their 11th-seed status to win the Bill Burgess Cup for the first time.
The team won the Bowl on their debut in 2015 and finished Bowl runners-up in 2016, but last year secured the Fijian quartet with the cooperation of Fiji Sevens coach Gareth Baber, the former Hong Kong boss.
“It’s great to have Samu back and we know he’s in good form because he just finished top try scorer at the Marist 7s in Suva. Leveni played rugby league in Australia last year and is now back in Fiji,” said team manager Jean-Baptiste Aldige.
“Sakeo Raloa is the big plus. This guy is on the radar of many European clubs and was MVP of the Coral Coast Sevens.
“This time, we also have a couple of forwards, Keponi and Vasikali, so we’re grateful to Gareth again for these players.”
Aldige, a former Valley and Hong Kong player, said the team would still enter with the same “challenger mentality”, but admitted it was far easier organising a squad as Cup winners as opposed to previous years.
“Last year, the plan was to get into the Cup quarter-finals and that is again our first ambition. Last year we were the underdogs, the challengers, and we still have that mentality,” he said.
“In a short knockout match, the difference between winning and losing can be such a small margin or a bit of luck. Last year, we had the chances and took them.
“Now, because we’re the champion, we’re a popular team. When I try to call players or reach them, I get a reply in a few minutes.
“This is different from a couple of years ago when I was just trying to get a team together.”
The team will also have a distinct Valley flavour, with Grant Kemp, Martin Muller, Ruan du Plooy and Karetai Williams all fronting up again.
UBB take on the Classic Wallabies, the A-Trade Overseas Old Boys and the Hunter + Boo East Africans in Pool A.