Drua power | Derenalagi thanks fans for support

Fans in celebration after the Super Rugby match between the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua and the Queensland Reds at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva on Saturday, June 03, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

“They’ve played in mud for four months in a year and they just love it and I’ve seen it first-hand this year, driving across parks that don’t even have football fields so whatever the weather is, there is no exception.”

These were the words of Swire Shipping Fijian Drua head coach Mick Byrne as they defeated the Reds 41-17 yesterday and have booked themselves a spot in the 2023 Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific play-offs.

Drua captain Meli Derenalagi said the weather was not a demoralising factor for them and thanked his teammates for playing their hearts out at the HFC Bank Stadium in Laucala Bay.

“Like I said on Friday during the captain’s run, we’ll just adapt to the weather because we can’t change it,” said Derenalagi.

“Whatever weather God blessed us with, we’d try to adapt and play with it.

“That’s what we did here today in front of our home fans and I’m glad my brothers played their hearts out and came out with the win.

“The fans always have our backs whenever we play at home and like I’ve said in earlier interviews, this is their team and we are just here to don the jersey and play for the love of the nation.

“I’d like to say a big ‘vinaka vakalevu’ to them for coming out in numbers to see and back the boys today (yesterday).”

Byrne added how hard they’ve fought this season to reach where they are today in the competition, sharing it was not an easy journey.

“It feels very good and it’s been a trip to get here since we started in Lennox Head last year,” Byrne said.

“At halftime today (yesterday), I looked around the room and I saw there was a lot of determination in the eyes of our players and it is always a pleasing thing to see as a coach.

“Full credit to the players for really stepping up, not only showing the competition, but showing themselves what they can do if they want to go after a game.”

The victory ended the Highlanders’ slender hopes of a playoff berth and the eighth spot in the quarter-finals will be decided in the final match of the regular season later last night.

The Force can leapfrog the Reds, and possibly the Drua, in the standings and move into a playoff spot if they beat the competition leading Chiefs in Perth last night.

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