Fijian Drua today announced its core squad for the 2023 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 Fiji’s best young talent.
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).
With the Drua now firmly planting roots in Fiji for upcoming seasons, the Club has embarked on its player development pathway programme by assembling its first ever development squad. The 12-member squad is made up of Fiji’s finest emerging players from the Deans and Skipper Cup competitions.
They 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.
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 Fijian Drua will open their 2023 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*