Super W final: Fijian Drua women urged to ‘be ruthless’ if they want to be three-time champs

The Fijian Drua women enjoying their time in Brisbane after training. Photo: Fijian Drua

Finals footy is not new to the Fijian Drua women’s team.

Previously known as the Fijiana Drua, the side won the Super W title in 2022 and defended it successfully in 2023.

Last weekend, under a new name, a new coach and some new players, the side created history by winning their third consecutive semfinal in three years after they defeated the Western Force women in Suva.

On Sunday, they battle the former champions, Waratahs of New South Wales.

Played on neutral ground, in Brisbane, the match has the making of a tough but free-flowing rugby match.

Case in point is the Waratahs thrashed the Drua in Lautoka last month – a comprehensive 62-21 thrashing by he visitors.

Case in point two, Drua defeated Waratahs in the 2022 final Down Under – a 32-26 victory.

So the game has come full circle both teams and now they are set to meet in their second final appearance against each other.

In 2022, it was Senirusi Seruvakula who led the Drua coaching team.

A feature of that team was their no-stepping back attitude, taking quick taps and taking the opposition on from almost anywhere on the field. A number of those bold moves ended up with memorable tries.

In 2023, Inoke Male stepped in as coach and mixed the options up. They defeated the Reds, coached by Rauluni then, in the final.

On Sunday, Drua women have the chance to re-write the history books again.

Male, who made way for Rauluni this year, said the team have a lot against them.

“Their chance is slim this weekend,” he said.

“They have some key players our with injuries. One is unable to play because of the cards rulling and they lost to the Waratahs at home this year.”

But that can be an incentive for the side to win, despite all the odds, he said.

That will require some soul searching and a change in focus and mind.

“They must take that as advantage and change their attitude towards the game differently,” Male said.

“Minimise time and spaces and be ruthless to the breakdowns.

“We got everything, if we win the collisions.”

The Fijiana celebrate after their courageous Super W win over the Reds

The Fijiana celebrate after their courageous Super W win over the Reds Photo: Fijiana Drua

‘On song for 80 minutes’

These are basically the same things Rauluni, who is no stranger to his second home in Brisbane, has also highlighted.

Rauluni and the players are in Brisbane already to finalise their preparation.

Rauluni said it is going to be a tough game for them, epeically after they were thrashed by the Waratahs.

He said the players have learned alot since then, adding anything can happen on game day.

“The girls have learned from that, that playing at home, you know, you’ve got to do the hard work before anything happens. That day they were way off the mark,” he said.

“I think they’ve developed really well. New South Wales has been the benchmark team for the whole competition, and everyone’s felt their wrath.

“It’s obviously a grand final and a different story. Whoever turns up, and you got to be on song for the 80 minutes. If you’re not there’s no second chance.”

Rauluni is no stranger to finals rugby having coached the Queensland Reds through to the finals last year. They were beaten by the Fijiana Drua then.

He said the challenge for the team is taking the right options throughout the game, adding it included knowing when to kick, when to pass and when to take the quick tapes and run.

“Those are critical decisions they will have to make on the go,” the former Flying Fijians captain said.

One of the areas the team lacked in last week was the goal-kicking.

Kickable penalties and conversions were missed, with the team losing out on 11 possible points.

But Rauluni said that he has full confidence in his kickers and believes they will do better this weekend.

“They have been practising and practising,” he added.

Missing this weekend’s final will be big prop Ana Korovata, one of the team’s weapons.

Rauluni said the player had received three yellow cards in a row and therefore gets a one match suspension.

Her absence will not be an excuse for side as former captain Bitila Tawake rejoined the side last weekend against the Force, following a season with the Chiefs in New Zealand.

She took the field in the second spell and stamped her mark straight away.

Bitila Tawake (right) trains with the Fijian Drua women in Brisbane on Wednesday.

Bitila Tawake (right) trains with the Fijian Drua women in Brisbane on Wednesday. Photo: Fijian Drua

Tawake is only change

Tawake is the only change in the team that played the semifinal last week.

She will be part of what is the first-choice forward pack, which includes Jade Coates, Asinate Serevi, Nunia Daunimoala, Sulita Waisega and captain Karalaini Naisewa at number eight.

Nippy halfback Setaita Railumu retains her place with her halves combination of Jeniffer Ravutia.

Speed merchant Atelaite Buna will be the main player at fullback. She scored three tries against the Force last weekend.

Waratahs wary of Buna

Meanwhile, the NSW Waratahs understand shutting down Buna is crucial in their aimt o regain the title.

The Waratahs return to the final after missing the 2023 edition.

Captain Piper Duck said it is huge and something they have been working towards for the last 12, if not, 18 months.

“Our theme is all around trust, not only in ourselves but in what we’ve done all season and thankfully we have had quite a dominant performance throughout the season,” she told AAP.

“To be able to bring that into that game against a quality side like the Brumbies who played really hard and made us work for it, it was very rewarding but we still have a job to do.

“We understand that there’s still more to do but we’re very proud of what we’ve done so far.”

They will face a red-hot Fijian Drua side in a rematch of the 2022 final, spearheaded by electric outside back Buna.

Buna has been the find of the season for the Drua, torching the Western Force in their semi-final victory in front of a packed Suva crowd.

The livewire finished with a hat-trick with 11 tackle busts and four line breaks.

Waratahs flyhalf Arabella McKenzie said they will need to be smarter with their kicking.

McKenzie also backed their flyers to match it with the explosiveness of the Drua, with Maya Stewart (11) the leading try-scorer in 2024 whilst Desiree Miller scored a hat-trick in the semi-final win.

“I think they kicked it back a bit too much and not very tactical,” she remarked on the Force’s strategy last week.

“We need to try and hold onto the ball as much as we can and use our strengths, which is our speed and running game.

“(Our wingers) are phenomenal athletes and it was amazing to see Desi (Miller) come into fruition this year whilst Maya is probably one of the world’s best in terms of finishing and setting them up.

“They’re always surprise packages, you never know what you’re going to get on any day which can be frustrating to preview a team

“It just puts all the focus back onto us and how we prepare and train. They’ve got some amazing players and they always throw a surprise player here and there in so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

The Waratahs and the Fijian Drua women will meet in Brisbane at 4pm (Fiji time) on Sunday.