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Fiji Time: 2:07 AM on Saturday 19 April

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Ruggers make the switch

Emoni Narawa
Thursday, January 02, 2014

KAVENI Dabenaise and Kameli Yalovigau have a lot in common.

The duo played Deans under-18 rugby for their respective schools — Nasinu Secondary School and Ratu Sukuna Memorial School; both play at first five-eighth; both were recently included in the Fiji Warriors extended squad to prepare for the Pacific Rugby Cup; and, most importantly, both have rugby league instincts.

Dabenaise's cousin, Marika Koroibete, is a National Rugby League (NRL) star who plays for Wests Tigers and starred for the Vodafone Fiji Bati at the Rugby League World Cup in Europe last October.

On the other hand, Yalovigau's elder brother, Etuate Tagicakibau, also played for the Fiji Bati side but missed selection for the RLWC.

However, the duo both want to pursue careers in rugby league's rival code — union. Dabenaise was part of the Fiji Secondary Schools U18 side that toured Australia last year. The side created history by becoming the first Fiji U18 team to beat the New Zealand secondary schools team.

The duo's raw skills and vision at first receiver during the Southern Zone Secondary School Deans competition caught the attention of Flying Fijians Inoke Male and earned them selection into the Warriors extended squad.

"I want to pursue a career in rugby union," Yalovigau told Times Sport.

Dabenaise sung the same tune when queried about his future.

"I always look up to my cousin Marika," said Dabenaise.

"He has achieved a lot in rugby league and now is a star for his club. I want to use his achievement as a challenge to achieve the same things in rugby union," added Dabenaise who hails from Namosi.

Yalovigau said he wanted to follow a career different from his elder brother, Tagicakibau.

"I will never want to play rugby league like my brother. I prefer rugby union and I will focus on making it big," he said.

Tagicakibau plays fullback for the Nabua Broncos Rugby League Club in the Fiji National Rugby League Vodafone Cup competition.

"This is a huge step for me to train with the Warriors squad. I am learning a lot from the senior players and I'm looking forward to the challenges that come with it.

"My brother made it big in rugby league and I want to become the first in the family to make it big in the rival code."

The Kadavu lad said it was a privilege to train alongside some of the top provincial rugby players such as Waisea Luveniyali, James Brown, Waisea Daveta, Waisale Vatuvoka, Josefa Levula, Vesi Rarawa, Sireli Temo and Apenisa Qiri.

He thanked Male for giving him the opportunity to train with the Warriors squad.

"This is a different level altogether from playing secondary school rugby. It's a new experience for me and I am enjoying it," Yalovigau said.

Male stated the first five-eighth is a spot that lacks depth at national level.

He said the reason Dabenaise and Yalovigau were included in the Warriors extended squad was to bridge the gap for the future generation of players.