It’s a whole new ball game, Swire Shipping Fijian Drua coach Mick Byrne says as he contemplates the upcoming clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch this weekend.
The Drua finds themselves in unfamiliar territory come Saturday, securing their first-ever quarterfinal appearance in just their second year, and Byrne is well aware of the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead admitting the stakes have never been higher.
Following consecutive victories over Moana Pasifika and the Reds have instilled a sense of confidence within the Fijian Drua squad, fueling their belief that they have what it takes to go all the way. Nevertheless, the Drua acknowledges that facing the Crusaders on Saturday will be no walk in the park, knowing full well the Crusaders outfit will be way better and stronger than the squad that they had beaten by one-point almost three months ago in Lautoka.
“We know they’re 11-times champions, and they’re playing at home. So our expectation is we’re going to get a pretty good Crusader side on Saturday. So this is our first taste of it. We just preparing to be really physical. We understand we have to be more physical than we’ve been this year.”
Byrne acknowledges the daunting nature of the task at hand but believes the Drua are ready to rise to the occasion. He recognises the importance of thorough preparation, and that failing to win means the end of the season.
“It’s a big game. We haven’t been here before. You know there’s an element of preparation that’s needed that we haven’t had before. And focusing on that certainly got us back on the job straight away. Same preparation that if you don’t get across the line this week, your season’s over. It’s a great driver. We’ve had a couple of weeks of preparing for that puts us in good stead for this week.”
The Crusaders’ formidable record at home is not lost on Byrne or his players, recognising it as an opportunity for growth.
“They’ll be clinical, they’ll be fast. They’ll challenge our speed around the paddock so we’re preparing for that. They’ll be physical and it’ll be good for us. We’re looking forward to bringing the same intensity on the field.”
The highly-anticipated match is scheduled for 7:05 pm this Saturday at Christchurch’s Orangetheory Stadium. This encounter marks the second meeting between the two teams this season. In their previous encounter during Round 3, replacement fly-half Kemu Valetini secured a historic 25-24 victory for the Drua with a penalty kick in the 83rd minute.
In a bid to rally home support for this historic Super Rugby Pacific playoff, Fiji’s national airline, Fiji Airways, has introduced a special discounted package priced at $899. The package includes a flight to Christchurch, access to the game, a unique Drua fan experience, post-match transfers, and a return flight to Nadi.