September 24, 2021
Interim Fijian Drua chief executive Brian Thorburn believes the depth in the team will be such that a place in the eight-team finals in Super Rugby Pacific is possible next year.
Thorburn is confident the Fijians will make a real impact in their maiden season and will give tough competition to Australian and New Zealand franchises.
“I think it's really hard to predict, and you don't want to set yourself up by putting a goal out there that can't be reached,” Brian Thorburn told Stuff.co.nz
“And you can't expect a new franchise that’s been put together in such a short period of time to be instantly successful.
“So, I don't for a moment suggest that we'll be competing for the final, but I would like to think that we would target being in the finals, in the top eight. That's a goal which we should aspire to.”
New Zealand Rugby offered the Drua a conditional licence in April, but the unconditional licence wasn’t confirmed until September after months of wrangling between NZ Rugby and Rugby Australia about the format of Super Rugby Pacific.
“There was certainly some moments when we were uncertain if it was going ahead, absolutely,” Thorburn said.
“And there were some times when we look at different models, if we join one side of the Tasman versus the other if the parties couldn’t agree.”
That uncertainty reduced the amount of time the Drua and Moana Pasifika had to assemble squads, but Thorburn said the focus was now firmly on the future and purred over depth in Fiji, and the transformational impact the Drua would have on the Fijian test side.
“I've seen the depth chart that goes from one to six in every position [for the Drua], and it's pretty strong. The production line of players in Fiji is just huge.
“We’re a one-team, once country model, which is unique. It’s one of the reasons I think that, taking a five to 10 year view, the flow-on effects for the Flying Fijians will be huge.”
“But we’re also a country where we've got a very strong provincial structure. The Skipper Cup is the top eight provincial terms, and the Vanua [Championship] is the next 16, so there are 24 provinces, each fielding a senior team and 21s and 19s.”
“That is just not our strategy. If we've got a particular weakness because we don't have as much depth or we’ve got some injury concerns, or we haven't been out we get somebody from Europe back that we really wanted.”
“At the moment we're only considering one person in that kind of category for next year.
“The vast majority of our squad we’ve absolutely got targeted and engaged and ready to roll.”
“I certainly hope the introduction the Drua and Moana will bring some real energy and excitement, and our style of play will light up the competition,” Thorburn added.
By Reginald Chandar