RETIRED schoolteacher Rupeni Tamanikaiyaroi, who introduced Kaji Rugby in 1988, has founded a KajiRugby Skills Academy aimed at improving the skills of our players and realigning the focus of rugby development at grassroots level.
The sport of rugby is poised to go up another dimension in the immediate future, thanks to the vision and hard work of the former rugby administrator and coach better known as Master Rupeni Tamani.
The former Fiji Under 21 coach has founded KajiRugby Skills Academy because of his concern and disappointment with the poor standard of basic skills recently displayed by our Kaji Rugby players at their local competitions.
Secondly, his concern regarding the high number of high and dangerous tackle counts that were witnessed not only at this level but at all levels of our local competitions.
Thirdly his concern with the high number of scrums involved in a game because of poor level of basic skills. This should be reduced because our scrummaging rating is very low in the rugby world scene.
He is also disappointed with the competition format that was used, because it placed more emphasis on "win-at-all-cost" instead of focusing on developing strong and sustainable basic rugby skills.
His observation is that many schools don't have the capacity to effectively develop their players because of lack of rugby facilities and coaching availability.
He's confident that his involvement of over 30 years at all levels of rugby as a coach, an administrator and a development officer would contribute enormously to the success of running this rugby school.
Kaji Rugby is a household name in the country today.
This brand of rugby was introduced in Suva in 1988 by Tamani himself, the headteacher of Veiuto Primary School at that time.
It was aimed at developing core and individual skills and to introduce rugby union to primary schools with reduced number of players and playing on half the size of a full 15-a-side pitch.
In 1988, the newly formed Suva Kaji Rugby Association headed by Tamani ran Kaji Rugby weekly competitions around Suva.
After a successful 12 years of competitions in Suva he decided to stage the first National Kaji Rugby Championship which was sponsored by Nestle Fiji Limited in Nausori in 2002.
Tamani says the Fiji Rugby Union relies totally on the primary school teachers who don't have the time, the proper qualifications and expertise to carry out this vital task.
KajiRugby Skills Academy is a Suva- based institution that offers rugby coaching services to primary school students aged seven to 12 years.
The institution is a private coaching entity which is currently a sole proprietorship; however, the business plans to change its organisational form to a limited liability company as the academy continues to grow in future.
KajiRugby Skills Academy has identified several target market segments that will be pursued. The largest segment is the boys aged eight to 12 years that will be accommodated in the first and third term each year.
The other potential segments which will be explored and catered for in term two each year would include seven-year-old boys and girls aged nine to 12 years.
KajiRugby Skills Academy offers coaching services to prepare and develop the players' essential skills which will make them complete players. Coaching sessions will be conducted after school on week days, Saturdays and during the school holidays.
Each player needs 20 hours to complete the prescription on rugby basic skills and 10 hours to practise the skills acquired through "pod rugby". Skill tests are conducted at the end of each module to provide motivation for the players, identify special talents and help those who need development in other skills.
KajiRugby Skills Academy will be led by Tamani. He brings with him a wealth of coaching experience in rugby and academic excellence that will be a great asset to the institution.
He will be reliably assisted in the first year by one assistant instructor and an office staff. It is envisaged that additional staff will be required in the second year of operation. This will bring the total staff to four — a director, two assistants and an office staff. Rupeni's rugby school specialises in developing core and individual skills of players aged seven to 12 years.
In his strategic plan his vision is to provide a world class rugby skills academy for all players and coaches in Fiji and the South Pacific.
His mission is to be the leading provider in nurturing and developing the players' essential skills without which they can never be complete rugby union players.
He aims to prepare and develop students aged seven to 12 years to excel as young rugby players of tomorrow by undergoing an exclusive rugby basic skills development program tailored for young boys and girls who wish to take up rugby at primary school level and beyond, and help experienced players who want to play more rugby improve their skills.
Tamani says Fiji is home to the Flying Fijians, one of the top 10 teams in the world ranking before the world cup in 2011.
"However, when you look at the composition of our world cup team in the last three IRB World Cup championships, you would find that the bulk of those selected are overseas-based players," he said.
"Why can't we grow and groom our own local players to represent the country in the future rugby world cup?"
Tamani graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma for General Manager and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at USP.
He has coached rugby at primary and secondary school, and national levels with a very colourful coaching credentials which include Senior Level 2 Certificate (Australia), Senior Level Coaching Certificate (Fiji), High Performance Coaches' Course (NZ) and IRB Level 2 Coaching Certificate. Rupeni is a retiree who has had 38 years experience in the teaching fraternity, 10 years as a classroom teacher and 28 years as head teacher.
Tamani's rugby background includes the introduction of 10-a-side rugby which he named as kaji rugby, the model of rugby which is now used in primary school rugby competitions in Fiji.
He also revived the Fiji Primary Schools Rugby Union and organised, after a lapse of 20 years, the first ever 10-a-side national championship called the National Milo Kaji Rugby Tournament in 2002 sponsored by the maker of Milo, Nestle Fiji Ltd.
He was national president of the Fiji Primary Schools Rugby Union from 2002 to 2009 when he decided to retire for personal reasons.
Tamani has a vast experience in coaching. He coached the U19 Fiji Secondary Schools Team in its Western Tour in 1992. In 1993 and 1995 he was again called for national duty to coach the U19 Fiji Secondary Schools Team to the first ever Pacific Rim Secondary School Tournament held in Suva in 1993 and the second one in Lautoka in 1995.
In 1990, he won Suva Grammar its first trophy in the U18 and again in 1991 Suva Grammar retained the trophy and won a trip to NZ to represent Fiji in the first Secondary Schools World Championship held in Whakatane.
At national level, he coached the Fiji U21 Team to the first U21 Rugby World Cup held at Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002.
In 2005 he again coached the Fiji U21 Team to Tonga to take part in World Cup Qualifier in Nukualofa.
His first national duty was in 1992 when he coached the Fiji Juniors Team that played against the South Africa Development Team in Lautoka and the NZ Maori in Nadi.
He also coached the U21 National Team that played against the Scotland National Team at the National Stadium in 1993.
Now that we have a rugby academy for our primary school kids, we ask the parents and guardians to keep up with this column because we will be releasing more information regarding the KajiRugby Skills Academy.