RWC Diary Day 8 - Tauranga Marae
06 September, 2011
|A Maori welcome! |
Culture is a funny thing sometimes. It defines us as a people but divides us as a region. It demands respect from its followers but can invoke fear or derision from outsiders. So it was interesting to see today two ancient cultures meeting as the Flying Fijians were officially welcomed to the Rugby World Cup (RWC) by the Maori of the Tauranga Marae
However the ferocious way in which we were initially welcomed had us a little worried at first. The bulging eyes, the threatening tongue gestures and the wild provocative movements as we stepped onto the grounds of the marae had us a little confused, and for a moment and we weren’t sure whether we were being welcomed or being threatened.
In the end though it proved to be a very moving event particularly for two of our own players, captain Deacon Manu and flyhalf Nicky Little, players who are both half Maori.
“My mother is Fijian and my father is Maori so this whole ceremony was very moving for me and I’m sure all the boys here will also remember this occasion for a long time to come,” Manu said, as he addressed everyone gathered within the marae.
There was a special treat for the players when they were presented their official RWC caps by RWC Limited Director Oregan Hoskins in the marae – a proud moment for each and every player.
Incidentally Hoskins is also the President of the South African Rugby Union. He seemed rather coy over the fact he was the one presenting the caps to the Flying Fijians, particularly as his team is also in the same pool as Fiji. By the end of the evening Hoskins was left in no doubt about what Fiji intend to do to South Africa, and the comments didn’t come from us (well there may have been one comment) but from the many Kiwis around him. Apparently the Kiwis will support any team that plays South Africa!
Anyway the Tauranga Marae visit ended an extremely full day taken up with two sessions of training and an official RWC media conference. The boys, though, took everything in their stride and still had enough energy to laugh and joke around with each other at the end of the day. An indication of the strong spirit within the camp as centre Gabiriele Lovobalavu attests to.
“The spirit is high and the boys are ready to do the job on Saturday and give Namibia a good game,” Lovobalavu said.
With the commitment and tenacity he’s shown in fighting his way back from a serious leg injury, it shouldn’t be any surprise if Lovobalavu is named in the team to face Namibia.
“It was difficult over the last few weeks, but right now I’m 100 per cent fit and ready to go.”
Which is good news indeed, with a little under four days to go before Fiji meets Namibia in its opening RWC match. The full team to face Namibia will be named on Thursday.
Until tomorrow, moce mada. View the full interview with Gabiriele Lovobalavu Related articles: RWC Diary Day 6 - Fathers' Day RWC Diary Day 7 - Tauranga