Fijian Prop Making Mark
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