Fijian Drua coach to look at Deans trophy players

Suva Grammar scrum half Philip Baselala breaks away against Lelean in the U18 Deans quarter-final at the HFC Stadium. Picture: ATU RASEA/FILE

Rugby professionalism and possible selection into the Fijian Drua in the Super Rugby Pacific competition are on offer for students playing in this weekend’s Vodafone Super Deans Championship at Lautoka’s Churchill Park.

Swire Shipping Fijian Drua head coach Mick Byrne, who is packaging his squad for the coming season, is considering selection from the Fiji Secondary Schools Rugby Union-sanctioned event.

“Yes, we will be visiting the Deans finals,” Bryne said.

“We are keen to look for young tight five players coming through.”

Notable players in the Fijian Drua franchise who came through past Deans Trophy competitions included skipper Meli Derenalagi, an Olympic Games gold medallist, Tevita Ikanivere, Mesulame Dolokoto of Queen Victoria School, Marist Brothers High School’s Christopher Noki Minimbi and Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, Cuvu College’s Ilaisa Droaseswe and Lelean Memorial School’s Peni Matawalu, and others.

With professional and Test rugby ages centred between 18-year-olds to early 30s now, Byrne could be looking for prospects this weekend to groom his young brigade for another impact at the Super Rugby Pacific competition where Fiji will host most of its matches in Suva and Lautoka.

Saturday’s venue, Churchill Park is expected to close for renovation from next week after the Deans Trophy finals to be ready next year for the start of the second season of the Super Rugby Pacific competition.

Fiji Secondary Schools Rugby Union secretary Waisake Tuicakau said the competition had been a hunting ground for years for local and overseas scouts.

“The Vodafone Super Deans Championship has always been targeted by scouts. There will be some around on the weekend looking for recruits,” he said.

The U18 final will crown a new winner after the fall of defending champion Queen Victoria School 19-21 to Natabua High School during the quarter-finals a fortnight ago in Suva.

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