HE honed his skills on the same Fijian beach as rugby league try-scoring machine Noa Nadruku and now Tevita Kuridrani hopes he can emulate the on-field heroics in Super Rugby.
Almost 20 years after Nadruku joined the Canberra Raiders and set the competition alight, Kuridrani got his first chance in the ACT Brumbies starting XV in the 37-6 win over the Rebels on Saturday night.
The powerful outside centre revealed a kava session at Nadruku's home nine months ago helped him settle into his new Canberra base. Kuridrani grew up in Namatakula ù the same village that produced Nadruku and dual international Lote Tuqiri.
And had it not been for Jake White in the Brumbies, Kuridrani would likely be back home still dreaming of making his rugby debut instead of taking on the Melbourne Rebels. That's why the 21-year-old can't stop smiling. If White had not offered him a contract last year, Kuridrani would have moved back to Namatakula with his mum Litiana and dad Inosi.
But after moving to Canberra, a visa bungle and nine months of training, Kuridrani is finally ready to realise his childhood dream.
"Mum and Dad have been back there since November, they went back when Mum graduated and if I didn't have a contract I would have gone too," Kuridrani said.
"I wouldn't be doing anything in Fiji, maybe go back to tertiary studies and play rugby there. It makes me appreciate it more, I would be back in the village fishing or those kinds of things, but this is where I want to be."
Kuridrani was forced to endure a painful wait for his first starting cap.
He impressed White during the pre-season and was rewarded with a spot on the bench in round four. But a miscommunication about his visa status meant he could not join his teammates in New Zealand for the clash with the Waikato Chiefs.
He had to wait another three weeks before White gave him his debut from the bench last weekend.
Kuridrani impressed enough to win a place in the starting side to take on the Rebels and ù with his visa renewed -ù he's ready to join his teammates on his first trip to South Africa next week.
"I told my manager my visa was about to expire and he told me it was all under control," Kuridrani said. "I thought it had been sorted until we were about to leave (for New Zealand) and that's when they told me there was a problem.
"It was tough to miss out. you might only get one chance and you have to make the most of it.
"This is my next chance."
Kuridrani's rugby journey began in Fiji. He idolised Nadruku and Tuqiri, but he never wanted to follow them into rugby league. He grew up playing touch on the beach after school and wanted to play rugby because his dad did.
When he moved to Australia in 2007 with his family his rugby started to blossom. He transformed from a fleet-footed kid into a 100 kilogram midfield destroyer ready to be thrust into Super Rugby.
Kuridrani patiently waited for his chance in the Queensland Reds Academy before joining the Brumbies on a two-year deal. Far from being daunted by the standard set by his fellow villagers, Kuridrani vowed to repay the faith White has shown in him.
"I never felt like I was out of place here, I felt like I fitted straight in because everyone made me feel welcome," Kuridrani said.
"I just want to add speed out wide and try to get over the advantage line. That's my game with power."