Fi­jian Prop Mak­ing Mark

Fiji Sun - - Sport - Feed­back: os­eab@fi­

Welling­ton: Peni Ravai can do things on a rugby field which many tra­di­tional props can sim­ply just dream of. Some Fi­jian sevens ad­min­is­tra­tors were the first to spot that.

In a club game in Fiji the front rower out­sprinted an op­po­si­tion wing in a 60me­tres foot race to score. It was a play which had the sevens of­fi­cials talk­ing and led to a left­field call up for Ravai to the Fi­jian sevens team. He took part in the Las Ve­gas sevens leg of the in­ter­na­tional sevens cir­cuit in 2013 and he is be­lieved to be the only front rower to ever rep­re­sent Fiji in sevens. When you catch a glimpse of his 120kg-plus frame you can see why he made such a unique player on the in­ter­na­tional sevens cir­cuit. Ravai’s time in the short­ened for­mat was brief as he turned his com­plete fo­cus to the 15s game. He made his test de­but in the 2013 end of sea­son tour to Europe when he came off the bench and slot­ted in at hooker against Ro­ma­nia.

He has played 16 tests in to­tal, which in­cluded four at the 2015 World Cup. The 26-year-old is now lin­ing up for the South­land Stags in New Zealand’s pro­vin­cial com­pe­ti­tion. In 40 min­utes of play against Manawatu in Palmer­ston North on Fri­day night, Ravai quickly made a mark in New Zealand rugby. He was in­tro­duced from the bench at half­time with South­land down 24-0. He played a lead role in help­ing them to level the scores at 31-31 at one stage be­fore los­ing 34-31. Ravai had a ma­jor hand in two tries show­cas­ing vi­sion, skill, and a touch of speed which isn’t as­so­ci­ated with ev­ery prop. “Be­fore half­time Clarke [Der­mody] told me to go on and lift the work rate up, so I did what they told me and we nearly go it.”

“I love touch­ing the ball all the time,” he said. For Ravai, now is about fine tun­ing the core roles of his game to go with his ob­vi­ous skill. That is what his time with the Stags is all about - learn­ing. “My friends told me it was go­ing to be cold [in In­ver­cargill], but I said, ‘never mind the cold, it is go­ing to be good for my rugby’,” Ravai said. “I’ve got some good coaches here, Hoani Mac­don­ald, Clarke [Der­mody], Ja­son [Kawau], they have been teach­ing me a lot. They tell me my weak­nesses and I like their coach­ing, it’s help­ing me im­prove.” Ravai feels at home in South­land af­ter mov­ing to New Zealand ear­lier this year to join the Wood­lands club. But he ad­mits he does miss his fam­ily back in Fiji. His fam­ily is watch­ing on proudly from a dis­tance as the 26-year-old carves out a pro­fes­sional rugby ca­reer. “Most of my friends back in Fiji read The South­land Times [on­line] now and keep in touch with how I’m do­ing,” he said.

“I miss my fam­ily a bit, but I like my team mates here. We train to­gether and we are like broth­ers now, so I haven’t missed Fiji too much be­cause I’ve got fam­ily here now.”

Ravai’s love of rugby started at a very early age in Fiji as him and his fam­ily and friends or­gan­ised their own games.

“It’s not like kids play­ing [in New Zealand]. We just used old co­conuts, plas­tic bot­tles, and chucked it around in the vil­lage.

“It wasn’t or­gan­ised, we just all did it af­ter school.” Ravai has no def­i­nite plans with his rugby and is just fo­cused on try to do his best for South­land. The next as­sign­ment is against Auck­land in In­ver­cargill on Fri­day night he is likely to get the chance to square-off against a cou­ple of All Black props, Ofa Tu’un­gafasi and Char­lie Fau­muina. Mitre 10 Cup Fix­tures To­day: Otago-North­land , Thurs­day: Hawkes Bay-Coun­ties Manukau; Fri­day: South­land-Auck­land; Satur­day: North­land –Can­ter­bury, Welling­ton-North Har­bour, Tas­man-Taranaki, Sun­day: Waikato-Manawatu Bay Of Plenty- Otago. - Stuff

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