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Fiji Time: 1:58 PM on Saturday 19 April

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Fijians rated highly

Kameli Rakoko
Saturday, December 14, 2013

A COUPLE of weeks ago we saw how a Fijian rugby forward impressed the Kiwis so much that he was regarded as the best number eight ever to grace the New Zealand turf.

He was considered better than South Africa's Hennie Mueller and made the NZ number eights third-rated.

Rusiate Vuruya, of Namuana, Tavuki in Kadavu, was one of the three Fijian players named in the New Zealand Rugby Almanack as the five best players of 1951. The other two were Kiwis.

The first Fijian to be named as one of the five best players in New Zealand was Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, in 1939, whom we will have a look later in this column next week.

The other Fijians were Josefa Levula of Narewa, Nadi and George Cavalevu of Nabukelevu-i-ra, Kadavu.

The almanack said of the 21-year-old Narewa, Nadi man: "The outstanding player was Josefa Levula, a wing three-quarter, who would be first choice for any team in the world. A beautifully built athlete, Levula had phenomenal speed, and took a power of stopping."

Another great player was the captain, George Cavalevu. He would be first selection for second-five eighth (centre) in any All Black side today. Cavalevu carried the brunt of the attack and defence, and played in all 15 matches, as did Levula.

Apart from the three outstanding players, the almanack also mentioned the other Fiji backline, just like the forwards as we have read earlier.

The right winger was Kalivate Cavuilati (of Verata, Tailevu), a great player who would also go close to All Blacks selection.

The first choice centre was Sunia Ganilau (Galoa, Kadavu). Here was another who was up in the first flight: there were not many centres his equal.

The best of the halfbacks was Suliasi Vatubua (Nausori, Tailevu), a very fine tradesman; he would find a place in most New Zealand provincial sides.

Of the two fullbacks, Isimeli Radrodro (Cakaudrove) played only in the first match as such, and then graduated into the pack, where his all-round play was more useful. (Radrodro weighed 12.6 and was 6'1" in height) He was the side's goalkicker and played in every fixture.

The other fullback Penaia Lese (Nadrala, Nadroga), in his 13 appearances, proved quite reliable. Penaia , was a distinct personality in the way he featured the despised "speculator", but as he played it showed there was no reason to doubt its effectiveness: his timing of the kick, his patience in waiting for the ball and the sureness and directness with which he got the ball away were grounds for thought.

In the New Zealand Maori match on one occasion, NP (Brownie) Cherrington emulated Penaia, when in difficulty and his effort, was a good one.

The utility back was Samuela Domoni (Rewa). He did grand service for the side in matches where he had to substitute as first five-eighth.

1951: Fiji toured New Zealand, playing 15 matches for eight wins, two draws and five losses.

Major provinces the side met were Otago (lost), Southland (drawn), Canterbury (lost), Waikato (drawn) and Auckland (lost), although Fiji won the only encounter with New Zealand Maori.

"The tourists suffered from the cold and mud as well as an extremely long injury list, although three of their players were world class — Vuruya, Cavalevu and Levula.

Levula in particular was a huge favourite — possessed explosive pace and great power, he scored 10 tries on tour.

Rusiate was considered by New Zealand critics to be at least the equal of Hennie Muller as an all-round No 8 and without a superior as a constructive loose forward.

Another novel feature of the touring team was the presence of a pair of 6ft 7in locks, Semici Baleca and Waisake Kunavula.