Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Henry Speight

When will Henry Speight be eligible to wear the gold and green of Australia?

At the end of this month, I hear.

And boy oh boy, aren't we all looking forward to see the second half of the 'Bula Brothers' don that jersey!

F.Y.I. Bula Brothers = Speight & Brumbies team-mate Tevita Kuridrani, who are both of Fijian origins. (Sounds like an X-Men movie)

The former Queen Victoria School student, who has scored a boatload of tries in the past two years of Super Rugby, is undoubtedly the best winger in Australia at the moment.

And the best thing about him is the consistency.

The Wallabies have used Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Joe Tomane, Nick Cummins and James O'Connor on the flanks in 2013.

With Australia set to clash with England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales during the November Tests, Speight is expected to be one of coach Ewen McKenzie's first choices for this touring party.

I. Can't. Wait.

Photo credit to Zimbio (

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Rugby Championship - A boring name for an exciting competition!

It has been a long, long, long time since I have been excited about a rugby match.

But the upcoming clash between world #1 New Zealand and #2 South Africa has me chomping at the bits.

The All Blacks have been their usual dominant selves, overwhelming all comers. And this began from the June Internationals which included a series win over France.

Let's ignore the loss to England last November because the All Blacks just weren't firing that day and I don't think the result would be similar if this current crop of ABs met up with the Poms.

So far in TRC, the ABs have seen off Australia twice (49-27 and 27-16) and claimed the Bledisloe Cup along the way and overcame Argentina in atrocious conditions too (28-13).

 South Africa, on the other hand, have been sputtering and stuttering in their matches but for some reason, have come good for The Rugby Championship.

To be fair though, let us not forget their winning ways during the quadrangular tourney in June against Samoa, Scotland and Italy. In their final match against the South Sea Islanders, the Bokke put 8 tries in with Bryan Habana grabbing a brace.

So far in TRC, the Bokke have gone up over Argentina twice (73-13 and 22-17) and world #4 Australia (38-12).


......this weekend's match has generated such a buzz amongst rugby enthusiasts because of the very position that Southern Hempisphere rugby finds itself in.

With three of the top four teams in the world, the competition undoubtedly the premier tournament in the world and there's good reason why.

When the Springboks and All Blacks clash on Satuday at Eden Park, the winner will have bragging rights to call themselves the best in the South. As well as take the lead on TRC table.

Expect fireworks. Nothing less.

One only hopes that the weather stays dry and that both teams are able to field strong XVs (minus Captain Courageous McCaw)

Monday, 29 July 2013

Hamilton versus Canberra

Oh what an amazing couple of matches that went down on the weekend.

In case you were living under a rock or just a hater of the original oval ball sport, then here's what went down.

Firstly the Chiefs overcame a dogged Crusaders outfit that had just begun to hit their stride and were peaking at the right time.

Then the Brumbies did the impossible and came away with the victory from the fortress that is Loftus Versfeld.

OK, to begin with, I am a Stormers and a Springbok fan to the core. I will always cheer for the South African teams.


if the team that they are playing has a Fijian in the ranks. That's when my loyalties get spliced up and divided, sometimes disproportionately.


I was happy that Chiefs and Crusaders were meeting up in one semi-final because it denied an all-New Zealand final which would have been boring. Especially considering the world champions domination on world rugby at the moment.

The Chiefs had to contend with a dogged 'Saders effort in the opening exchanges to run in two well-taken tries.

Dan Carter was a bit shaky from the tee and missed a couple of shots at goal that would have been bread-and-butter for him, on a good day.

The 'Saders, being the class outfit that they are, dug deep and came at the Chiefs with everything in the final quarter but the Chiefs defended stoutly.

One point.

That's as close of a winning that you're likely to see in any sport. And yes it hurt the 'Saders.

Said their coach, Todd Blackadder:

"It comes down to those critical decision-making errors on the field. It comes down to key moments. Probably the difference is that the Chiefs took their two (tryscoring) opportunities and we didn't quite nail ours."
 So with no major injury worries for the side, they go into the final knowing that they would be hosting because of the top-of-the-log finish at the end of the regular season.

For Chiefs:
Tries: Masaga, Cruden
Cons: Cruden 2
Pen: Cruden 2

For Crusaders:
Try: Dagg
Con: Carter
Pen: Carter 4

Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Bundee Aki, 22 Robbie Robinson.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Luke Whitelock, 19 Richie McCaw, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Adam Whitelock.

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson, Chris Pollock
TMO: Glenn Newman


And then, attention turned to Pretoria as the next match prepared to get under way.

The Brumbies, who topped the Australian conference, were always going to be the underdog in this clash because they had never won at Loftus since 2006 and the odds were well and truly stacked against them.

Buoyed by the two Fiji boys, Henry and Tevita, the Brumbies were on the back-foot for a major part of the match.

The Bulls must have had a gameplan of stifling the Brumbies attack and keeping them pinned deep in their own half.

Why else would captain Dewalt Potgeiter forego kickable penalty chances to go for a lineout in the corner?

"We tried to spend most of the time in their territory and it was working for us right up to the end - when we took the penalty and we were back in our own half. We just could not exit [our half] from there. We'd been struggling the whole match with our exits - so that was basically the reasoning behind that. [It is] not always a popular choice, but you've got to back what you want to do and the guys were of the same mindset at that time."

As I watched this transpire, I thought to myself that it would hurt heaps if the Bulls lost the match by 3 points or less.

And yes, they lost by 3.

They had been leading for a majority of the match due to the boot of Morne Steyn but the try by Kuridrani after the Leali'ifano break, with two minutes to go, was the knife that plunged deep into the heart of the Bulls faithful.

For Bulls:
Tries: Engelbrecht
Pen: Steyn 6

For Brumbies:
Try: Mogg, Kuridrani
Con: Leali'ifano 2
Pen: Leali'ifano 4

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Mornè Mellett, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Jürgen Visser.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Andrew Smith, 22 Joe Tomane.

Referee: Craig Joubert

And so it turns out it's going to be Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Patrick Osborne, Save Tokula and Maritino Nemani versus Henry Speight and Tevita Kuridrani.

Can't wait.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Fiji, Pacific Nations Cup champions 2013

Oh, what an amazing game!

It came down to the final match of the annual tourney and both teams could have scooped top honours with a victory.

It was a match for the ages. After racing to an 11 - 0 lead, Tonga self-destructed.

Or maybe, Fiji just wanted it more, at the end of the day.

The biggest plus, as a critical Fiji fan, was the use of dummy runners by the backs. This allowed gaps to appear and the pacy Fijian backs made easy work of their opponents.

Another improvement was the scrum. Just like in their previous match, Fiji slowly absorbed, matched and dismantled their opponents, come scrum-time.

Find of the tourney = Nemani Nadolo.

He has been a revelation at 13 and one wonders it took so long for him to shifted to that position, seeing as how, in my opinion, he is too big to play on the wing.

It bodes well for Fiji rugby to have progressed in leaps and bounds over the course of a few months, seeing as how the Northern Tours late last year was an absolute shambles for the boys in white.

Consistency will be the keyword, moving forward, for all stakeholders of Fiji rugby.

Onwards and upwards, lads. Up Fiji!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Hong Kong and Me

On March 23, the Hong Kong 7s tournament kicked off. It is part of the IRB Sevens World Series which is held annually. I have often mentioned before to friends that there are only three tournaments that the Fiji 7s team loves/aims to win and they are; Rugby World Cup 7s, Wellington 7s and the big one, Hong Kong 7s. It's not so much that Hong Kong is the only tournament with prize-money (and a massive one at that!), it's just that the tournament has endeared itself to the hearts and minds of everyday Fijians.

From back in the day when television was a novel idea and a brand new gadget for the wealthy in Fiji, the Hong Kong 7s was the ultimate. Back in the days when the Fiji 7s team usually comprised of the most winning-est local club side in Fiji, the tournament at So Ko Po Stadium held much promise for the athletes that participated in it.

Anyways, so last Friday (Mar 23), the torney kicked off. School finished at midday as always and I had already made plans to stay on campus for another weekend. Everybody was astonished that I would attempt two weekends in a row but I had my reasons. Top of the list was the Hong Kong 7s.

I googled the tourney and converted the fixture times for Fiji and set my plan around those times. And everything worked out, to a T.

On Friday evening; I had a can of sardines, a can of pineapple slices and a loaf of French bread and logged onto the net to catch the first match.

Fiji 36:0 Hong Kong

Slept in on Saturday morning and got up at about 8am. When you're consistently getting up at 5:30 every morning, 8am seems like a real luxury. I went about my day and that included cleaning up my room, running to the village to pick up some supplies and chow, doing some laundry and having a nap. But...i had set my alarm for Fiji's second pool encounter. So I ate a hastily prepared lunch of bread, foie du porc and orange juice and opened up the livestreaming site to catch the rugby.

Fiji 22-12 Spain
The Spanish put up quite a fight and the Fiji side struggled to find the form that accounted for the Canadians the previous evening.

A friend of mine on campus had earlier invited me to dinner at his place. So I reluctantly accepted. Probably he was one of the few people who spoke decent English but I was hesitant because I wasn't in the mood to socialise on such a personal level i.e. in someone's home and at their dinner table. Steve is a maintenance dude at the school and he was one of the first people to come up to me and introduce himself.

So he turns up at school to pick me up and we go riding to pick his cousin up. It turns out, that we weren't going out for dinner but rather, we were heading to a local Nakamal, which is basically a Vanuatu grog parlour. I say Vanuatu because the concept and the name Nakamal originate from there so as such, due respect to the peeps.

Nakamal/Vanuatu grog is really lethal when compared to most other grog concoctions from around the Pacific. Back home, we have to mix out grog just right in order to enjoy it fully. The Nakamal grog is so thick and storng that after three or four bowls, you're set for the evening and you can carry that buzz on for a good while.

I told Steve that I had to be back in school at a certain time and he was only too happy to oblige. After dinner (same as lunch) I setlled down for Fiji's final encounter.
Canada 5-26 Fiji 

Fiji hadn't been too convincing in the first two days but they were unbeaten and that's all that counts.

What happened next was quite a blur. The knock-out stages of the tournament were exhilirating and kept me on the edge of my seat. It was kinda weird not being able to shour encouragement, curse at the ref and just make all sorts of unnecessary noises, as is the way of th islands.

Students had begun to arrive back on campus and I was trying my hardest to supress the urge to shout and scream.

Fiji 29-5 Australia

Fiji 26-14 New Zealand 

After a very, very disappointing first 10 minutes of the final, Wales led 19-0. Already my brain was doing calculations as to how and when Fiji should strike in order to make it a contest again. Which is saying alot because I, for one, am so allergic to figures and mathematics. They just give me such a brain-freeze.

Then in 10 glorious minutes, the match was turned on it's head (like the Ilai Tinai tip-tackle that earned him a yellow card and a short respite from the action).

Wales 19-26 Fiji

Social network sites were abuzz with Fijians from everywhere making such a fracas about winning the tourney that one can't help but join in. It was such a heart-stopping match and one I'm glad to have watched live, even if I was stuck in Pouembout, miles away from home.

This is looking to be a very good week for me. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Mecca of 7s Rugby

The modern home of sevens rugby is alive and kicking this weekend. It's the final day of action and most of the big guns are through to the knockout stages.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Tiko Doing It Big

On Saturday, 2 June, the Chiefs took on the Blues in round 15 of the Super Rugby competition. On paper, the match looked to be an even affair despite the teams’ positions on the overall standings. And on the night, the match did not fail to deliver. It was close game but in a very entertaining way. The scoring was tit-for-tat and the Blues almost matched everything that the Chiefs threw at them. For the Blues, Lachlan Munro and Peter Saili’I stood out in the midfield and matched the much-lauded Chiefs centres with gusto. However, the sheer size and class of Sonny Bill Williams made sure that Jackson Willison’s first start was one to remember.

Tiko scores the first of four
The evening belonged to one certain individual who shone for the winners.  Asaeli Tikoirotuma or ‘Tiko’ was a masterclass for the Chiefs. He has been having a stellar season and last Saturday he scored four tries, equaling the record set by Sitiveni Sivivatu back in the day. You see, the Waikato region loves it’s Fijians. And the faith put on Tikoirotuma was paid back in spades as the young man barged, chased and sprinted his way in the hearts of the Chiefs’ faithful. The wonderful thing about Tiko is that he has pledged his intention to wear the white jersey of Fiji rather than follow the dream of donning the black jersey of New Zealand. He has been outstanding for Waikato last year and the Chiefs this year and he can only fly higher;
When I prepare for my matches, I visualise the thousands of rugby fans around Fiji following the Super Rugby competition. I thank the many fans that support the Chiefs. And I'm ready to play for Fiji. It has always been my ambition.
Nemani gets 10 minutes rest
This writer’s cousin, Maritino Nemani, played on the other wing for the Chiefs. That was his first start all season but it will be remembered for the wrong reason. Apart from being solid in the set-pieces and  in the drift defence, Nemani had a brain explosion when he tipped opposite number Rene Ranger head-over-heels. He is believed to have contravened Law 10.4 (j) lifting a player from the ground and either dropping or driving that player's head and/or upper body into the ground whilst the player's feet are off the ground. After appearing in front of the judiciary after the match, Nemani received a three-week suspension that will see him sit out their next home match against the Crusaders from Christchurch.

The Hamilton-based franchise are topping the overall standings which is in contrast to the situation faced by the Auckland boys. The Blues are currently bottom on the table and are not in playoff contention at all whilst the Chiefs have won 11 of 13 and are at the top as of today. The competition is really starting to heat up now and the positions at the are being sought out more than ever and players have been training well in time for that. Something exciting to see is how the elite players can handle playing for the Super Rugby franchises and play for their countries in the same week. This is due to the beginning of the June Test fixtures and players could face severe burnout soon rather than later.

Asaeli Tikoirotuma carving up defences in 2012.