The Swire Shipping Fijian Drua today announced its core squad for the 2023 Shop N Save Super Rugby Competition, with a number of returning breakout stars from its inaugural 2022 season and some exciting new faces.
The club has also revealed its first development squad featuring Suva Grammar School Under 18 halfback Philip Baselala and other young standout players from the local competition.
Headlining the team is new season captain Ratu Meli Derenalagi.
The big loose forward is no stranger to the captaincy role, having led the Drua seven times last season.
Returning stars to the team include Flying Fijians’ Vinaya Habosi, Teti Tela, Frank Lomani, alongside blockbusting centres Kalaveti Ravouvou and Apisalome Vota.
Barnstorming loose forwards Kitione Salawa, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Joseva Tamani and Vilive Miramira are also back for 2023, as well as Flying Fijians hookers Tevita Ikanivere and Mesulame Dolokoto.
The 2023 squad has been reinforced by another gold-medal winning Olympian and Rugby 7s World Cup winner in Iosefo Masi, who joins the Drua after a short stint with the North Queensland Cowboys.
Joining him is robust Suva backrower and fellow 7s World Cup winner Elia Canakaivata.
Flying Fijians prop Mesake Doge returns home from Europe (Dragons and Brive) to bring valuable experience to the Drua front row in 2023.
Other new players to watch in 2023 include former Melbourne Rebels squad member Emosi Tuqiri and impressive centre Michael Naitokani (Swire Shipping Fijian Warriors and Nadroga).
Fijian Drua CEO Mark Evans says they are honoured to introduce their 2023 Drua squad and the the club is determined to make the country proud.
Drua Head Coach, Mick Byrne says this squad announcement is another exciting milestone in the very short history of the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua.
Byrne adds that they are impressed with the development of their current squad members during the off-season with the addition of some new faces.
Meanwhile the development players who have signed for the Drua are Livai Natave, Jone Naqiri, Sailosi Vakalokalo, Fred Ralulu, Joji Kunavula, Motikai Murray, Naibuka Matadigo, Philip Baselala, Isikeli Rabitu, Aisea Tuisese, Jack Volavola and Taniela Rakuro.
Livai Natave has already been capped for the Flying Fijians.
The development players will train alongside the main squad under the watchful eyes of Drua coaches and high-performance staff, aiming to earn a call-up to fulltime professional contracts.
Meanwhile the club also farewelled a number of players from its inaugural season and thanked them for their contributions to the team. They are Nemani Nagusa, Baden Kerr, Kitione Ratu, Onisi Ratave, Manasa Saulo, Jona Mataciwa, Viliame Rarasea and Leone Nawai. The Swire Shipping Fijian Drua will open their 2023 Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific against Moana Pasifika on Saturday February 25th at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Their first home match in Fiji will be against defending champions, the Crusaders, on 11th March 2023 in Lautoka.
The full 38-member squad is listed below.
Haereiti Hetet, Jone Koroiduadua, Timoci Sauvoli, Samuela Tawake, Meli Tuni
Mesulame Dolokoto, Tevita Ikanivere, Zuriel Togiatama
Chris Minimbi, Isoa Nasilasila, Ratu Rotuisolia, Sorovakatini Tuifagalele
Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Ratu Meli Derenalagi, Vilive Miramira, Raikabula Momoedonu, Rusiate Nasove, Kitione Salawa, Joseva Tamani
Simione Kuruvoli, Frank Lomani, Peni Matawalu
Caleb Muntz, Teti Tela
Michael Naitokani, Kalione Nasoko, Apisalome Vota
Kalaveti Ravouvou, Selesitino Ravutaumada, Vinaya Habosi
Ilaisa Droasese, Kitione Taliga, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre
Philip Baselala, Joji Kunavula, Naibuka Matadigo, Motikai Murray, Livai Natave, Jone Naqiri, Fred Ralulu ,Isikeli Rabitu, Aisea Tuisese, Taniela Rakuro, Sailosi Vakalokalo, Jack Volavola
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