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.
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 are tight forwards Tevita Ikanivere and Mesulame Dolokoto. The full 38-member squad is listed below.
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 said: “We are honoured to introduce all Fijians to their 2023 Drua squad. We are a team of the people and every member of the squad and the Club is determined to make the country proud.
“Our inaugural season laid the foundation for what we can do both on and off the field in 2023. We are stepping it up in all aspects, we have an exciting array of Fijian stars who will light up the competition, and we will deliver six outstanding home matches in 2023 for our fans.”
Swire Shipping Fijian Drua Head Coach Mick Byrne said: “This squad announcement is another exciting milestone in the very short history of the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua. We are impressed with the development of our current squad members during the off season. We have added a couple of new faces and they have been training well.”
He added: “Our playing group are looking forward to the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific Season after experiencing their first year of professional rugby this past season. We look forward to providing all our fans with an exciting and successful year of Rugby in 2023.
“Our Flying Fijians will also bring back their experiences of International rugby into our environment. The coaches are very excited to work with this group of players to bring success to our loyal and passionate Drua fans.”
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 25 at Mount Smart Stadium, in Auckland. Their first home match in Fiji will be against defending champions, the Crusaders, on 11 March 2023.
Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta
Ratu Meli Derenalagi
\new squad additions*
Source: Fijian Drua