Drua’s defining moment

The Swire Shipping Fijian Drua players in Lautoka last week. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

Let’s take a look into the past games and replay all the memories of when the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua started its journey in the Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific competition.

A combination of two modes of sea transport from the olden days when our ancestors use the waqa vakaviti also known as the drua and modern-day shipping formed a formidable combination to embark on a sea of the unknown.

When the Drua franchise was born, Swire Shipping stepped up to partner with it for the past two tough seasons. Growing up, there used to be a waqa vakaviti competition during school breaks among children in villages that took place — especially those in the maritime zone.

When translated to us, the stronger the win is, the quicker the waqa vakaviti or drua sails.

For the two-year-old franchise, the tougher the competition becomes, the more mature the players get.

It is proven because the side has learned the variation of the journey as they run across a sea of top-class competition and at times it is as predictable to know fans in the competition treat the Drua as their second team.

Sometimes, the result may not favour how the Drua prepares for its next journey.

The last game will be the defining moment for Fijian Drua coach Mick Byrne as he prepares to know his fate whether he fulfils his season dream — of a top-eight finish — or will he wait for another year.

Against the Moana Pasifika side last week, the Drua, even though they won, had a solid hit-out.

Like a well-oiled machine, on the broader spectrum, it was not pleasing even though the scoreline diminishes the intensity of the high tempo of the game.

From across the Pacific Ocean, the Drua has adapted and learned some maturity in their growth, games organisation, and individual development even though decision-making is an elementary component of the close contest in the season.

Young players such as Caleb Muntz and Peni Matawalu showed signs of maturity in very crucial and key positions of the team.

Muntz, who will run at first five eighth today, and Matawalu are players who have developed steadily under Byrne’s care.

The duo, next season alongside Philp Baselala, have a strong ability to read the game and put their body on the line. They will only get better with the guidance they have under the club’s ethics.

At the later stage of the season, they stood tall even when under pressure, they stuck out. The halves pairing should be well-utilised by Byrne and on the other hand we can’t judge from just one game.

As far as the performance of the team, in two years, the Drua’s inclusion warrants why it was one of clubs to be included in the competition.

Because it was a big, tough season, big travel days, short turnaround, all those sorts of things have made Drua players learn to adapt. For next season, the side will get better and will adapt to those types of things. But then again, they have to really have good work in the offseason preparation.

The side’s energy and effort will need to be up to the SRP standard and the performance has to be better.

When we look at the games, some were disappointed with the result, some decisions went against the side, and disappointed with the way players go through injuries.

But the good thing about the Drua is they got a better reply and a good response from the players every time they suffer defeat, which sets up momentum going into the next game.

So the performance was good. Against some teams, they made every scramble tackle, and little mini half linebreaks which each week, they have been able to get through as well as any team they played against, they gave good runs.

As a mental coach himself, Byrne got cliches in critical games, but the focus was always on preparing for his weekly lineup.

The players began to know each other’s style of play and understood what other teams are bringing — at times big physical and they come hard actually.

The side made a lot of game lines close around the ruck which the Fijian boys enjoy because it is their preferred style of play.

The competition is all about points on the board and momentum. It takes a kickable penalty by influencing the scoreboard. It’s about taking the perfect opportunity to execute a set piece.

At some moment in the game, quick taps without thinking resulted in turnovers and the team were punished for it.

The forwards — front rows have been the pillar of the club’s strength with some forwards such as Kaliopasi Uilakepa and Mesulame Doge sidelined for much of the season because of injury.

Doge recovered and didn’t disappoint as the Drua will put its best pack against the Reds today — to get the results needed for a spot in the quarter-final.

Throughout the season the Fijian Drua faced some tough opponents, they man up and stood against superior outfits such as the Crusaders, and Hurricanes which were laced with All Blacks players.

They boasted experience, but the Fijian Drua came away with shocking results by holding their fort.

The side has been competitive in the breakdown and their line of defence worked out well. The players, if not all have a model of consistency in the modern game, they have shown that when in a professional environment, they can be something else.

So, today’s result will determine the fate of the Drua.

• WAISALE KOROIWASA is a sub-editor with this newspaper. The views expressed in this article are his and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.

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