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Last chance for Nadi

Kameli Rakoko
Saturday, September 28, 2013

AN explosive first half and a nailbiting end is expected to be witnessed by rugby fans today when Nadi challenges Naitasiri for the Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy at the ANZ Stadium.

Nadi's 2013 rugby campaign started well and they remained the unbeaten side until late in the season and are still unhappy with the forces that be for taking away the $5000 that comes with the Digicel Cup top of the table award.

They also lost the home semi-final chance all because four match points were deducted from them.

All that is water under the bridge and the Iliesa Tanivula-coached side have one last chance for glory.

Nadi came close to beating Suva in the Digicel Cup semi-finals but gave away penalties in the dying minute to lose the game.

They had gone on to score two quick first half tries and Suva had to play catch-up rugby.

It was the same case last week as Naitasiri under a new coaching order shocked Suva leading 22-10 at half-time.

Suva could not find the strength to make the final assault in the dying minutes and lost 25-23.

The kicking abilities of Naitasiri's Waisea Luveniyali and Kolinio Vunaki will be tested against Nadi's Vecisemani Ratubalavu and Kavekini Varo.

Varo is an exciting first-five and has a bagful of tricks and is the general in the Nadi backline attacks.

Nadi has a solid and mobile pack and are well versed and well drilled in the tackled ball department and rucking situation.

They lost twice to Suva and once to Nadroga and won against Naitasiri in the Digicel Cup competition.

They lost 8-13 and 22-21 respectively to Suva but they still have shown great potential to win one or both the two major rugby trophies this season.

Marksman Vecisemani Ratubalavu was on a day off in the first loss and missed three penalties and a conversion managing only one close penalty but has been improving ever since.

Perhaps he was rattled by the new stadium facilities, or was unfamiliar with the trade winds blowing in from the southern end and as it sometimes quickly changes direction.

Ratubalavu has been instrumental in Nadi maintaining a top four spot this season and with first-five Kavekini Varo the two young men make up an exciting backline combination.

Their forwards showed they had sound upper body strengths and were solid and mobile while also holding their own in the scrums and lineouts led by Semi Kunatani.

Naitasiri has all-round strength and it will be an equal contest.

They still have many questions to answer to their fans who have been revamped by last week's victory over Suva.

Has the team found their right combination and strength or were Suva just suffering from fatigue and Naitasiri were just there to take the spoils after the damage made by Lautoka, Namosi and Vatukoula?

All that will be answered against Nadi today.

As for their schoolteacher coach he does his homework well and schoolteachers have proven to be successful coaches because they are professionals in getting their message across.

World cup champion coaches Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer, England's Martin Johnson and New Zealand's Graham Henry were schoolteachers.

Locally Inoke Tabualevu was a schoolteacher and the country's most successful coach taking Fiji to a big historic win over the British Lions in 1977.

Win or lose this Saturday will be decided when the dust settles but one thing is definite though.

Naitasiri rugby may have entered a new era.

How long it will last depends on the Ministry of Education and his teaching appointments.

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