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Rugged hillman leads Fiji in NZ 7s

Kameli Rakoko
Friday, February 01, 2013

THEY breed them tough up in the hills because of the rugged mountains and healthy staple food of rootcrops and vegetables.

It is a breeding ground for tough men and many who eventually made their way to ply their trade in the urban areas always found their way quickly into rugby teams because of their natural physique and strength.

A number of our boys in the Fiji squad such as Setefano Cakau from Namosi have that kind of upbringing in their villages.

Two such men are front rows of our national sevens team that will play in tomorrow's Wellington Sevens tournament.

Vunamoli's Ulaiasi Lawavou and Rararua's Nemani Nagusa are two such men and they are naturally tough and are both utility forwards for the Nadroga rugby team in the full code.

Both played locks and loose forward for Nadroga last year as they retained the Digicel Cup but lost the Farebrother-Sullivan trophy to Suva in the third last challenge.

Vunamoli and Rararua are from the same district of Rukuruku and Nawaka. They speak Nadroga/Navosa dialect but they come under the administration province of Ba.

Lawavou previously played for Nadi but made a timely switch last year when he joined Nadroga rugby.

He immediately made his mark and national sevens coach Alivereti Dere comes from the same Nawaka district and he quickly saw the potential in Lawavou and recruited him into the national sevens squad.

Lawavou made his debut in last October's Gold Coast Sevens and Dere's decision to use only players , who had played top 15s rugby paid dividends.

Such players had gone through tough high pressure competitions and they do not panic in the same conditions in sevens rugby.

While South Africa was posing to upset Fiji in the Gold Coast semi-finals Lawavou was as cool as a cucumber when he drew the defence and lobbed an inside pass to Joji Raqamate to score the winner.

It was as if he was playing touch rugby on a normal afternoon down at Sigatoka.

He is a ferocious tackler and he was red-carded once in the Digicel Cup competition against Suva for a dangerous tackle on Kamenieli Neiqisa.

Nagusa is a favourite forward for many of those who had followed his game.

He is difficult to bring down and when he is in possession near the tryline he always scores by barging his way through the opposition tackles.

They do not have the pace of the other forward squad members of Jone Vota, Setefano Cakau and Jasa Veremalua but when the defence tightens the only way through is straight ahead and for that they can always rely on these two bulldozers from the hills.

But not like some muscle men who enjoy nothing else but the physical confrontation and end up overdoing it, Nagusa is also a good ball distributor and sets up tries for players outside him.

Because of his power he draws two or more players and this allows for anyone near him to have a free run for the tryline.

The majority of the Fiji side to Wellington have played in the Digicel Cup competition except for three in Vota, Manasa Nayagi and speedster Benito Eremasi.

They have a lot to prove in Wellington and Las Vegas and it may be their only big chance so that they can return for the remaining legs of the HSBC Sevens and the Sevens World Cup in Russia this year.

The HSBC Series has been branded the toughest competition in the world and sevens rugby the toughest sport.

So to survive only the fittest will endure.

As the saying goes, 'When the going gets tough the tough get going'.

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