It was sea of blue when they Fiji Airways Fijian 7s side jetted into the country after winning the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title together with London and Paris 7s trophies.
Ardent fans gathered at the Nadi International Airport to welcome our heroes who created yet another history at the World Stage. After meeting their families, friends and fans, the national 7s side was then transported to Nawaka District School, where the players took time out to meet the kids.
The centre of attraction in Wednesday’s celebrations was World Rugby Sevens Rookie of the year Meli Derenalagi. The Fijian 7s players were then taken to Derenalagi’s Nawaka Village where a grand celebrations took place.
President and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was also present at the celebration and took time out to thank the Fijian 7s coach Gareth Baber, his management team and the players.
“As both the Prime Minister and a fan I can say, its been an absolute thrill to be part of this journey. I would like to acknowledge the leadership of Coach Gareth Baber. You are tasked with satisfying the most passionate rugby fans on the planet but your clam and your confidence style has been a proven feat for this team. You brought up the best from these players, you have earned our trust and respect from the people.”
Bainimarama also thanked Jerry Tuwai who has become one of the most successful players in the Fijian 7s history.
“I want to specially thank Jerry Tuwai who has become a very familiar sight in this victory celebrations. With this World Series title you have become the most successful Fijian 7s player of all time with 18 cup finals, one goal medal and now the third World Rugby Sevens Series World title. For the past five years we have watched you with pride” he said.
Coach Baber thanked the government, Fiji Rugby and the fans who supported the team throughout the season.
“I just want to say a very big thank you to the President and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama for all the support I get during the tours. I also want to thank Fiji Rugby as well for the support that they have provided us in making sure we have everything going to any tournament.”
He added “It’s a great achievement by a group that have had some difficulties to deal with all season and previous seasons as well. That’s all about growing and developing a team and being more resilience when the pressure comes on. We just like to say a big thank you to everyone here in Fiji.”
Baber also revealed on his plans for next year.
“Our next dream is to continue this and our next aim is this time next year or a little bit later bring home a gold medal to Fiji.”
He said it hasn’t been an easy journey for them this year as they have also learnt a lot during ten tournaments they played in the series this season.
“It has been a good season for all of our learnings and don’t rest on the laurels, we know that as we discussed we have more to do and there is a big year coming up.”
He said that he is looking forward to retaining the same set of players for next season.
“These players will be retained for surely. They have been led by the likes of Josua Vakurunabili, Paula Dranisinukula, Jerry Tuwai and Waisea Nacuqu who have been in the series previously. There is couple of boys here who can potentially put up their hands as well. I’m always looking for talents around.”
The players go on a break before coming together next month to prepare for the Pacific Games and overseas tournaments later in the year.
He highlighted “There is the Pacific Games coming up, which obviously we will prepare for and then we will be traveling on October 1st and 2nd to Germany, which is another tournament. I’m looking from that to grow more players, potentially take players overseas and see how they behave.”
Meanwhile, the players, coach the team management received cash incentives from the government after their outstanding achievement in Paris.