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Foundation of hope

Maciu Malo In Las Vegas
Friday, March 02, 2018

A village boy who was groomed to become a church minister is now making headlines in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

He is Eroni Sau. He is called the "Sledgehammer" in the series.

Sau grew up at his mother's village at Nabukeru, Yasawa.

He didn't live with his parents until he reached primary school.

He was born at his village in Marou, Naviti, also on Yasawa, but was raised by his namesake and grandfather (mum's dad).

His grandfather wanted him to become a church minister and even taught him biblical lessons as a foundation of hope for Sau's future.

It was this upbringing that shaped this young man to be what he is today.

Even though he didn't become a minister, the discipline and strict upbringing were the seeds planted by his grandfather. It enabled his namesake to be successful on the rugby paddock.

In Las Vegas, United States yesterday, the soft-spoken flyer said even though he didn't fulfil his grandfather's wish to become a church minister, he was happy to use his God-given rugby talents on the rugby battlefield.

Dubbed the sledgehammer because of his bone crunching tackles and his ability to fend and push off opponents, Sau did not dream that one day he would become a rugby star.

And he thanked the Almighty God for his achievement.

"My grandfather, who is also my namesake, was the one who raised me and it was his dream for me to become a church minister," said Sau.

"I vividly remember saying 'yes' to him to work hard to fulfil his dream, but little did we know that the Lord has other plans for me.

"Although I have diverted from my namesake's dream, I am happy to be God's vessel on the playing field fully utilising the talents He blessed me with.

"And I know that my grandfather is also happy with what I have achieved. He told me after my first 7s outing that he was proud of me and what I have achieved. "

Sau said he started playing rugby on the sandy beaches of Nabukeru and Marou villages. Marou is part of Naviti district (tikina) which is also an island.

The other former Fiji 7s rep to have come from the tikina was legendary Kaiava Salusalu.

They started from humble beginnings, but Sau said the Lord had prepared something special for him.

He said while his peers played touch rugby every afternoon in Yasawa, he would collect some village boys to play contact rugby.

"During my early days I always love contact sports, especially rugby and I always wanted to play tough rugby.

"We always play rugby on the beach at my mum's village and after I moved to Marou, I continued to play rugby at our compound, village lawn and beach with fellow village boys.

"We often got chased away by elders because we would continue playing in the dark. Some of the villagers always tell me that I have good rugby talents. Since then I started to take rugby seriously.

Sau attended Ba Provincial Free Bird Institute for his secondary school education.

It was there where his talent was spotted by his teachers and he was selected in the school's rugby league team.

He said he loved rugby league because it was more about physical confrontation. He also played for the then Saru Dragons rugby league team in the Fiji National Rugby League competition. He also represented the Fiji Residents in the Battle of the Bati where he scored four tries.

After failing to secure a spot in the Fiji Bati side, Sau joined the Red Rock 7s team playing in local 7s competitions. He was recruited in the Fiji 7s training squad, but didn't get a chance to make the final team.

"My wife sometimes told me to quit 7s rugby because I was not selected in the Fiji 7s team in 2013 onwards, but I did not give up," he said.

"I don't want to give up, so I continued to play 7s for Police and also for Suva rugby 15s team."

He was later selected in the Fiji Airways Drua team last year and finally made his biggest rugby 7s break after being selected by Gareth Baber in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Dubai and South Africa 7s tournaments this season.

There was no looking back for this dedicated Yasawa native from stamping his mark as the new 7s sensation after just four tournaments that earned him the nickname 'Sledgehammer' because of his tough and aggressive tactics on the rugby field.

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