The recruiting of Fijian talent is a well established practice in New Zealand First XV rugby. The likes of Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu have left an indelible mark on the game.
Within Fiji itself recruiting is less frequent, but that doesn’t apply to Sevu Reece at Hamilton Boys’ High School.
The New Zealand Secondary Schools’ representative bound for Waikato’s ITM side in 2016 was a highly sought after talent in Fiji, well before he shifted to New Zealand.
Reece attended Ratu Navula College from the Western division of the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu. In 2012 he was the captain of their under-16 team who won the national title in that age group.
Queen Victoria School (QVS) made overtures about attaining the services of Reece. QVS is one of the most prestigious rugby schools in Fiji. The choice to leave Ratu Navula was obvious.
“They were keen to have me and my parents thought it would be a better education so I left Ratu Navula,” Reece recalls.
“It’s a boarding school about five hours from where I lived. I really enjoyed my rugby there. I was the youngest in the team. It was a good season.”
Ironically Ratu Navula beat QVS in the 2013 final of the Deans Trophy. The Deans Trophy is the national championship of Fijian First XV rugby. QVS have won it 14 times, 2013 was the first victory for Ratu Navula.
Reece learned greater independence while away from home and soon relocated to a different country via Hamilton’s partnership with QVS – a relationship that helped produce Wallaby Henry Speight.
In his first season in Hamilton he was the leading points scorer and kicked the winning conversion in the final of the Sanix World Youth tournament in Japan, before injury struck ruling him out for the rest of the season.
“I broke my ankle in a game at Chiefs camp. It was a bad injury, Reece laments.
“I learned when you are injured you have to be patient and get the best recovery,”
In 2015 Reece hit the ground running. He helped Hamilton win their 10th Super 8 title in 11 years. Hamilton beat National Champions Rotorua Boys’ High School twice.
“Nobody at school expected us to win Super 8, so to do that was really good,” he says.
Reece played second-five, centre, wing and fullback. He prefers the wing because of the “greater space” and “less pressure.”
Reece was named in the Super 8 tournament team. He started three games for New Zealand Schools and says the highlight of the tour was beating Australia 32-8 in the test.
“We only beat the B side by one, but the main team by heaps. The B game was played at midday in 35 degree heat. The test was played at 6pm when it was cooler and we were hotter,” Reece laughs.
Reece will be one of Hamilton’s key players at the Condor Sevens in December. Hamilton won the Waikato Sevens title last Saturday and Reece warns the 2014 semi-finalists will have a strong team in 2015.
“Some of our big backs are moving into the forwards. We will have speed and mobility. Some players to watch for are Patrick McCurran, Rameka Poihipi, Samuel Toa and Patrick McCurran.”