The ‘Crest Na Iri’ Coral Coast Sevens Women’s competition will commence on Thursday morning at Lawaqa Park, Sigatika, Fiji. All sides will be out to claim glory–Telecom Mokosoi, the shadow Fijiana side are here to defend their 2016 title. Here to challenge them, are the Striders team, while track athlete Milika Tuivanuavou switches to rugby.
In one of the more established sevens rugby tournaments in Fiji, the Coral Coast Sevens are famous for the ‘island style’ of play. Local teams face off to the visiting clubs, In the women’s competition, it will be the same. Competition though should be expected from Japan and local giant-killer side Nadi Blazers.
The Women’s competition is this year missing the Aussie Pearls and a Serevi Select team (from the Atavus Rugby organization) from the United States. But not to worry, as Japan brings in the new Asian flavor along with the fighting Telecom Mokosoi–unleashing a secret weapon.
Over the tournament, teams will be fighting for the $8,000 prize money on offer. Matches are scheduled to be played on Thursday, with quarter finals to start the day Friday morning. Teams are divided into two pools –
Pool E: Telecom Mokosoi, Marist Seahawks, Wardens and Classics Sounds Jillaroos.
Pool F: Japan, Striders, Nadi Blazers and Coastal Owls.
Milika Tuivanuavou Switches To Rugby
Her name is synonymous with athletics, and Milika Tuivanuavou is revered by her peers in the Pacific and the United States. But the 26 year old from Vutuna, Nairai is just another ‘Jenny from the block’ who loves sports. Her switch to rugby might surprise many but the former Fresno University graduate is adamant that ‘it was time’.
The Pacific Games Gold Medalist who has a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology and Psychology, said in an exclusive interview with LWOR that she is ready for the challenge. She never played rugby competitively but rugby runs deep in the family. The daughter of former Fiji flanker Jope Tuivanuavou, her mum played sevens in her youth days. Her two brothers played in schools and at club level, with her sister joining a club in Nadi recently.
They say ‘it must be in the genes’ and for Tuivanuavou, she is grateful to the Striders club for providing her the platform to show her talent this week.
Milika Talks Exclusively to LWOR
On her switch to rugby:
“Never really intended to take it up seriously until the last few years, when the momentum picked up again for Women’s rugby. Watching the girls play and make it onto the international scene has been inspiring.
“It’s not easy being a female in a male dominated sport, and from the sevens game I’m really moved by their efforts and passion for the game.”
“It hasn’t been an easy transition, as sevens requires a different type of fitness. Sevens really max’s out the anaerobic system for you too last the 14 minutes or so of game time. But it’s been fun getting killed out there and learning a whole lot.
Goals for this weekend/future:
“My goal for CC7s is to get exposure. Learn as much as I can and progress from there. Hopefully, I’m still in one piece at the end of it. I’ll be doing my best and working hard to represent Fiji on an international stage, Lord willing.”
— Sergey Bubka (@sergey_bubka) May 8, 2015
Last Word On Rugby (LWOR) expect that Milika will easily transition to the sport of rugby sevens, and look forward to watching her progress in 2017.
Striders Aim For Top Four Finish
The champion local club side Striders will be aiming to topple two national sides this weekend. The Suva-based team will be led by coach/player Tavaita Rowati. They are leaving no stones un-turned, as they will go all out in Sigatoka.
With five key players in the Fijiana squad, Rowati has roped-in some National XV’s representatives to feature this weekend. Seven players; including Rowati, were part of the team that took part in the Women’s Rugby World Cup qualifier in December, in Hong Kong.
The team has been training the last three weeks to make the transition back to sevens. Spearheading their campaign will be the likes of Raijeli Daveua, Mere Moto, Siteri Tabua and Esiteri Bulikiobo. Fijiana Olympian Tima Tamoi will feature for the team too.
Striders squad: Mere Moto, Makereta Tunidau, Esiteri Bulikiobo, Ateca Rainfoth, Talei Turaganivalu, Ada Dansey, Reijeli Uluinayau, Siteri Tabua, Tima Tamoi, Milika Tuivanuavou, Alisi Komaitai, Tavaiti Rowati (13th player- Laisa Taga).
LWOR talks to coach/player Tavaita Rokowati
“We understand the physical demand is different from a XV’s game, but the girls have been working hard towards their fitness in Border to meet these demands, and be ready for the Coral Coast Sevens tournament.
Who is the threat in the tournament?:
“We are not taking any team lightly. We understand that Fijiana and Japan are both national teams, but Striders are ready to take up the challenge. We have girls who have the potential of playing at an international level and we hope their talent will be recognized.
On Milika Tuivanuavou:
“She’s a star on the track and has much interest in the sevens arena. She has a touch rugby background, and I believe using her outright speed on the wing will give more strength to the team.
What can we expect from Striders in Sigatoka?:
“This team is about developing players for Fijiana. We have a mixture of experienced and new players. This is a good platform for them to be exposed against International competition. With our experienced players like Raijeli Uluinayau, Esiteri Bulikiobo, Makereta Tunidau, Siteri Tabua and Mere Moto, I’m confident that this girls will do well.
Thoughts on the Coral Coast Sevens:
“This tournament is an opportunity for women in the country to showcase their talent.
“I would like to thank the organizers of the CC7’s for creating opportunities like this for women in Fiji.”
Telecom Mokosoi To Unleash Baleca
Defending champs Telecom Mokosoi will unleash the lanky Naina Baleca in Sigatoka. The young Naitasiri lass was part of the Fiji National side that went to Hong Kong. Her aerial prowess was key to her recruitment to the Fijiana set-up. This shadow national side is out to retain their title.
Baleca, the New Zealand-based winger has been brought in to fill the void left behind by ‘Women Mountain’ Litia Naiqato. She’s big, fast and carries herself well. Naina featured for Striders at last year’s Marist Sevens, but this will be a true test at the Crest Na Iri tournament
Other notable names in the Mokosoi side are Lavenia Tinai, Ana Maria Roqica and Rusila Nagasau. The side will be led by Ana Maria Roqica. Tinai who captained the side to victory last year, was also the Top Try Scorer in the Women’s competition. Making their comeback to the team are Talica Vodo, Asinate Savu and Australia-based Ebony Satala.
Telecom Mokosoi squad: Rusila Nagasau, Pricilla Siata, Talica Vodo, Naina Baleca, Asinate Savu, Merewai Cumu, Miriama Naiobasali, Ana Naimasi, Lavenia Tinai, Tima Ravisa, Ana Maria Roqica, Raijeli Daveua, Ebony Satala.
Japan Here To Learn and Improve
The Japan Sakura side bring the Asian flavor to Sigatoka this weekend. Having lost their spot in the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, they are using the tournament to test out players before the qualifying tournament for next year’s series.
Sakura squad: Ai Nakamura, Raichierumiyo Bativakalolo, Hinano Naqura, Maya Shimizu, Yume Hirano, Yukari Tateyama, Ayano Sakurai, Yuki Ito, Iroha Nagata, Emii Tanaka, Sora Konishi, Anna Kasai.
Blazers and Wardens pose real threats
Fiji National captain Leilani Burnes will lead her Nadi Blazers side which features six 15s reps. Also in the mix is top winger Wainikiti Deku, the top try scorer at the 2016 Marist Sevens. They pose the major outside threat with Wardens who have former Fijiana rep Vaiti Waqatabu in the team.
Follow all the results and updates from the Coral Coast Sevens here on Last Word on Rugby.
“Main photo credit”