Tuwai reflects on comeback

When Fiji named their squad for the SVNS Series grand final in Madrid, it was nigh on impossible to look past the significance of Jerry Tuwai’s selection.

Sevens fans the world over thought Tuwai’s career was likely over, and so did the man himself.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist was overlooked by former coach Ben Gollings earlier in the 2023/24 season, with the Englishman reportedly putting it down to Tuwai not being fit enough to play on the SVNS Series.

New boss Osea Kolinisau, who won Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Games with Tuwai, didn’t select his old teammate either for events in Hong Kong China or Singapore. But with it all to play for in Madrid, Tuwai was recalled into Fiji’s touring squad.

With the top eight men’s teams embarking on a quest for overall SVNS Series glory in the Spanish capital, both the experience and skill that Tuwai brings is going to be invaluable.

The veteran was an unused substitute against New Zealand but he’s still making an impact on a group that has struggled for consistency this season.

After sneaking past New Zealand 28-26 in a thriller, the Fiji players disappeared down the tunnel and grouped for a huddle. Initially, coach Kolinisau led a prayer and the team talk before all players turned to Tuwai who had the final say.

Tuwai stopped for a moment to speak about the match. While speaking with this writer, the rest of the Fiji squad waited for the sevens icon before walking together as one over to the changerooms at Civitas Metropolitano.

But while the Fijian players waited, Tuwai – who will look to win a third Olympic gold medal from as many Games in Paris later this year – made a stunning admission about his SVNS Series career.

“For the past few tournaments, I thought, ‘I’m done, that’s me’,” Tuwai told RugbyPass. “I thought the (London) Sevens last year was my last tournament, that’s what I thought.

“You have different plans but God has another plan for us and maybe this one and maybe the next big thing. I don’t know. Only God knows.”

Terio Tamani scored in the ninth minute before Ponepati Loganimasi crossed for a crucial double. Longanimasi’s second try allowed Iowane Teba to line up a match-winning conversion from the sideline. It went over. Fiji won 28-26.

“Thank God for that. I think it’s very special. We’ve been losing for a long time and everyone has been disappointed in Fiji – families and especially us, we’ve been disappointed about the performance in the past (tournaments),” Tuwai explained.

“To win against a very good team, a team that has been performing in the Series like New Zealand, it’s a big thing for us.

“It shows us that we’re doing some smart things right and it pushes us to become better players and a good team for the next game.”

Author: 
Loop Author