Just when coach Vilimoni Delasau thought the season had come to a close for Ba Rugby, it dawned on him that the real work is just about to start.
“The Ba Industries Cup Final between Nailaga and Veiyasana was on another level,” Delasau explained.
“That was some of the best rugby we have seen at Vinod Patel Park – two well-coached sides going toe-to-toe and holding nothing back.
“But now we have less than three months to prepare our senior and junior squads for the Skipper Cup, and that includes the Christmas break.
“We are selecting 55-60 senior players to form the wider training squad, which will be whittled down to 30 players come February. Those not making the cut will form the Development XV.”
The Ba Juniors (U20s) and Ba Women enlarged squads will also be announced shortly and be given their off-season training schedules.
“The Tikina tournament exposed plenty of new players who will be vying for Skipper Cup selection,” Delasau added.
“It really did streamline the selection process and ensure that every player in Ba had the opportunity to show their worth.”
“With the Skipper Cup being moved forward by four months, we don’t have much time to sit and reflect, it’s straight back to work.
“We still haven’t worked out when to hold our club rugby competition in 2024 – but our focus now is the Skipper Cup.
“It has taken Ba Rugby a generation to get promoted, so we want to stay there and keep improving until we become one of the established teams.”
Delasau will have the same difficulties he witnessed earlier in the year with players from the highland villages needing to camp nearer to Ba town so they can train with the squad.
“I suppose that particular problem of transportation time and costs will always be with us,” the former Flying Fijian said.
“It’s something we need to build into our planning. We managed it in 2023 when we had minimal funding, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.”
Getting technical expertise to assist with the set pieces will be another must. Ba does not have a wealth of coaches with those skillsets at the top level, so they will be looking around at all options.
“As a rugby province, we are still in our infancy despite the long history,” Delasau pointed out.
“There’s a lot of positive energy, goodwill and good people who give their all to help us. In the 2023 Vanua Championship, we found out who we can rely on and who should be involved moving forward.”
At the Junior level, AD Patel College defeated eventual Dean’s Trophy runners-up Natabua High School in the regional pool stages while Xavier College reached the final of the Under 15s grade.
BRU secretary Gaby Kautoga, a teacher turned preacher, has been leading the development team this year and sees plenty of potential at secondary school level.
“Our vision for schools’ rugby matches that for our senior sides,” the pastor said.
“Many of the Ba Juniors team that reached the final of the Vanua Championship are still at school, and we are looking for ways to integrate secondary schools rugby with the youths who leave school early but are promising rugby players.”
As for the Ba Women, the Rooster Chicken Shield enjoyed the presence of Fijiana head coach Inoke Male and Fiji Rugby Union’s HPU manager women Alana Thomas.
“There was so much energy on and off the field last week,” Thomas said. “I hope Ba Rugby is able to nurture all this talent.”