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A star is born

Maciu Malo
Sunday, April 13, 2014

ANOTHER rugby star was unearthed at the 27th Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s at Nadi's Prince Charles Park yesterday.

Yamacia playmaker Ropate Labalaba has joined the list of rugby stars that were identified at this tournament after being selected in the national Vodafone 7s 18-member squad to prepare for the last leg of the HSBC IRB 7s leg.

And the icing on the cake was when the 26-year-old was named the player of the tournament from among the hundreds of players that competed at the two-day tournament.

The Korolevu, Navosa native was instrumental in his side's big win over Tokatoka Westfield Dragons in the semi-final scoring a crucial try to shatter the Dragons dream of winning the title for the third successive year.

He did his best in the final against Police National but it was not enough to give his team the win as his side bowed out 22-19.

The soft spoken Navosa lad credited his achievements to the Almighty God.

He said he had been working hard for the past five years to make the national 7s squad.

Labalaba also dedicated his achievement to the sacrifice and perseverance he endured at training every day.

"I thank the Lord for giving me the desire of my heart and the onus is on me to work hard to make the final selection," he said.

"This is a huge opportunity for me and I will do my best to represent Fiji."

He also thanked his teammates for their assistance that enabled him to be selected in the national 7s team.

Meanwhile, Ben Ryan has retained the core team that took part at the Japan and Hong Kong 7s tournaments.

Veteran Pio Tuwai and Setefano Cakau have retained their spot in the side.

Fiji 7s team: Viliame Mata, Pio Tuwai, Semi Kunatani, Apisai Domolailai, Setefano Cakau, Benito Masilevu, Emosi Mulevoro, Waisea Nacuqu, Osea Kolinisau, Vatemo Ravouvou, Donasio Ratubuli, Samisoni Viriviri, Leo Naikasau, Jasa Veremalua, Samuela Saqiwa, Jona Tuitoga, Joeli Lutumailagi, Ropate Labalaba.

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