How Pick­ing Co­conuts and Div­ing for Fish Pre­pared Sau for Great­ness


mailife - - Contents - By JOHN MITCHELL Pho­tos JONE LUVENITOGA

Who would have thought that child­hood chores like pick­ing co­conuts and div­ing in the sea off Marou, Nav­iti in Ya­sawa would one day place some­one among the best in rugby’s ab­bre­vi­ate code? It rings true for Fiji’s lat­est sevens sen­sa­tion and HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 Rookie of the Year, Eroni Sau. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view dur­ing a re­cep­tion hosted by French Am­bas­sador Su­jiro Seam, at his Ratu Sukuna Road res­i­dence, Sau rev­eled the se­cret be­hind the strength, speed and hard-hit­ting tack­les that may have earned him the nick­name ‘Sledge­ham­mer’. He vividly re­mem­bers play­ing in­no­cent games with vil­lage boys, pick­ing co­conuts, go­ing to the plan­ta­tion and spend­ing hours at sea, swim­ming and div­ing for fish to help put food on the ta­ble. Those were his fre­quent phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties and he be­lieves they helped de­velop his mus­cles and up­per body strength. “I didn’t go to the gym that much to do weightlift­ing, but I think it was the up­bring­ing back in the vil­lage, lift­ing sacks of co­conuts and swim­ming that helped me,” Sau said. “I think swim­ming and div­ing for hours look­ing for fish built my strong arms and shoul­ders. Also play­ing with friends in the vil­lage, try­ing to out-mus­cle each other to find out who was the strong­est helped me phys­i­cally and men­tally.” Win­ning the ti­tle of Rookie of the Year was not a to­tal sur­prise for Sau. He said while he did not want his nom­i­na­tion to dis­tract him from his rugby he made sure he played his best un­til the very last game. “Win­ning the Rookie ti­tle was a bless­ing and for that I would like to thank my team mates and ev­ery­one at home for their sup­port.” His rise did not come about with­out its share of chal­lenges. He tried all op­tions avail­able to him, in­clud­ing play­ing15s and rugby league un­til fi­nally get­ting his break last year. Sau at­tended Ya­sawa High School be­fore mov­ing to Lau­toka to fin­ish his sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion at Ba Pro­vin­cial Free­bird In­sti­tute, where he was in­tro­duced to rugby league. He joined Saru Dragons but left league in 2015 to ag­gres­sively find a spot in the na­tional sevens team. He was se­lected by na­tional sevens coach Gareth Baber in 2017 be­fore the start of the 2017/2018 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and made his de­but for Fiji at the 2017 Dubai Sevens. “I put in a lot of sac­ri­fice that peo­ple don’t see, es­pe­cially do­ing my own ex­tra train­ing early in the morn­ing and try­ing to stay fit. “I had to push my­self per­son­ally, know­ing I would make it one day and wear the white jersey and it fi­nally came true.” Look­ing back at his de­but year, he said he gained a lot when his dream came true last sea­son. “It was a great sea­son. We lost some and won some tour­na­ments and although we didn’t win the series we thank our fam­i­lies for al­ways be­ing there for us. “For me per­son­ally, it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially play­ing with boys who won at the Rio Olympics and some well known over­seas play­ers from like Semi (Radradra) and Josh (Jo­sua Tuisova). I look for­ward to the task ahead.” He ded­i­cated his award to all those who sup­ported his rugby. “I ded­i­cate my win to my fam­ily for al­ways be­ing there for me, es­pe­cially my wife Luisa, kids and rel­a­tives. I also thanks the FRU, my team mates and also the Fiji Po­lice Force for giv­ing me job op­por­tu­nity, shel­ter and for sup­port­ing me all the way.” Sau said his fo­cus in the next few weeks was train­ing hard for the up­com­ing Rugby World Cup Sevens to be played 20-22 July, San Francisco, Cal­i­for­nia.

Eroni Sau re­laxes at the French Am­bas­sador’s of­fi­cial res­i­dence, Rt Sukuna Road, Suva

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