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For God and country

Maciu Malo
Saturday, April 05, 2014

THE year 1977 will always be cherished by Fiji rugby fans.

It was the year Fiji made its presence felt on the world rugby scene by winning its first ever Hong Kong 7s title and beating the British Lions in the historic one-off rugby Test in Suva.

And today we will relive those glorious moments when our tiny nation stood tall among the powerhouses of world rugby.

The tale of those two famous wins in 1977 not only did the country proud but inspired aspiring rugby players to scale new heights.

It was the win over the Lions that saw the birth of Fiji and the world's best 7s player in Waisale Serevi.

In one of Serevi's earlier interviews, he described how Fiji's win against the Lions influenced his rugby life. He was only nine years old then.

He said he was at his Nasole home in Nasinu when he heard the people's shouts of joy during that great game. Serevi said then he wanted to dedicate his life to rugby and to one day make the people of Fiji happy.

And today Serevi is a living testament of that famous win in fulfilling his rugby dream of becoming one of the finest rugby players to ever grace our shores playing in two rugby 15s world cup in (1991, 1999) and three sevens rugby world cup (1993, 1997 and 2005).

He also captained Fiji to two rugby world sevens world cup victories in 1997 and 2005.

Now let's go back to 1977.

We bring to you one of the rugby stars who was instrumental in these two victories, and arguably the best ever open-side flanker Fiji has produced in 100 years.

Known for his try scoring abilities, never-say-die attitude and athleticism, Vuata Narisia Sr was a star among heroes in his rugby debut for Fiji.

Recalling those unforgettable moments, Narisia said he never imagined he would make rugby headline in his first year as national rep.

Hong Kong 7s

After his standout performance for Nadi in the provincial competition, he was selected by the then Fiji 7s coach Brian Whiteman to make his debut at the Hong Kong 7s.

Narisia scored three tries in their 15-4 semi-final win over Australia and later scored two tries to help Fiji secure its first Hong Kong 7s win defeating New Zealand's Marlborough side 24-4 in the final.

The Nadi native said the side was one of the best prepared team to leave our shores and the contributing factors to the win was the players' commitment, trust for each other and the will to win.

"In those days once you wore the famous white shirt with the palm tree emblem on your chest, you knew your life was at stake for God and country," said Narisia.

"We were prepared to die for our country on the rugby field and this motivated us to win the Hong Kong 7s.

"Apart from our desire to make our country proud, we were one of the fittest teams that year.

"Australia was defending the title that year but we tore them apart in the semi-final and I can still remember my first try when I collected a ball from the kick off and raced away 80 metres untouched.

"In the final, we thumped Marlborough and after the final whistle we knew we had survived the battle and made the country proud."

He said the players were shocked to see a sea of people from all walks of life waiting for their heroes at Nadi International Airport.

"I will never forget that Hong Kong win and I owe it to my teammates and team management for our teamwork."

Fiji's win over the Lions

Five months after the Hong Kong 7s win, Narisia was drafted into the Fiji team for the one-off Test against the British Lions.

He was named as open-side flanker because of his pace and tough play.

Narisia said the Lions forward pack that afternoon was heavy and powerful compared with the Fijians but the South Seas Islanders opted for the free-flowing game that exhausted the Lions pack.

"At the scrums and set pieces, we always came second best but our coach Inoke Tabualevu told us to play open rugby.

"The coach also told me to cover the backline in attack which resulted in my two tries.

"By the time our winger Senitiki Nasave touched the ball I was by his side providing the support that resulted in my tries."

Narisia said he would always cherish this great victory.

"Today I still have my number 7 jersey I wore during the game framed at home in Australia and every time I look at the jersey, I recall that famous win.

"I thank almighty God for giving me the talent to utilise for the sake of my country."

After representing the country, Narisia secured rugby league contracts in Australia where he now resides.

Advice

The former Fiji rep says nothing on this earth comes easy.

"For those of you selected in the national rugby teams, please do your best for the country and never ask for reward.

"I know rugby nowadays is money-oriented but nothing beats the feeling of giving your life on the rugby field for your country.

"The passion for rugby and the love for the country enabled us to create history during those famous 1977 rugby victories."





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