An injection of Fijian flair has bolstered the Nelson College First XV as the side looks to emulate its historic run of 2019.
The school kicks off its 2020 campaign this Saturday with a pre-season ‘game of three halves’ against Waimea and Marlborough College.
With just seven returning players, there will be plenty of new faces running out onto the hallowed front field this season.
Among them will be brothers Fijian Nic and Timi Sauria in the backline and blockbusting loose forward Netani Baleisomosomo.
Standing at a formidable 1.90 cm and weighing 110 kg, Netani will bring some much-needed size and strength in the wake of departing captain Anton Segner.
The 17-year-old grew up in a small village in the Tailevu Province where he started playing rugby at the age of seven.
However, because the village was scarce on resources, Netani and his friends were forced to play with rolled-up clothing as a ball.
His talents were soon recognised as he made Fijian age-grade sides and starred at the prestigious Queen Victoria School.
The young behemoth was then lured to Nelson in hopes of building on the successes of last season, which saw them win the Annual Quadrangular Tournament, the UC Championship and the South Island championship to finish fourth in the country
Having grown up idolising the likes of Fijian wrecking ball Josua Tuisova, Netani hopes to use his power to score a few tries and bruise some bodies along the way.
“I like to run over people and bump them off.”
Conversely, Nic, 17, and Timi, 15, will bring the traditional fleet Fijian feet to the fray as the young brothers hope to spark an inexperienced backline.
The brothers say they have a healthy rivalry in the team which helps keep each other motivated.
“Being the older one he is always pushing me to be better,” Nic says.
Timi says he looks up to his brother and follows his lead.
“If he goes out to do fitness, I’ll go out and do it too.”
The Sauria name is well respected in Nelson rugby circles with the boys’ father Seta Sauria a Marist club legend.
The boys recently made the switch from Nelson to Marist, much to the delight of their old man.
Nic and Timi say while they feel a bit of pressure following in the footsteps of the 2019 class, they are confident of another successful season.
“We want to go back to back.”
Saturday June 13
Nelson vs Waimea/Marlborough