Shock as Fiji legend and Hong Kong resident Seru ‘Rambo’ Rabeni dies at 37
Discovery Bay Pirates pay tribute to former international player who coached and inspired them to promotion into the Hong Kong Premiership A
Seru “Rambo” Rabeni, a former Fiji rugby international player and coach of Hong Kong side Discovery Bay Pirates, died on Tuesday at the age of just 37, officials in the Pacific island nation said, prompting shock and tributes from team-mates and fans.
Rabeni represented Fiji at 15s in the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups, combining speed with a brutal tackling style that earned him the nickname “Rambo”. He also played two sevens tournaments in Hong Kong, in 1999 and 2000.
Rabeni moved to Hong Kong 2014 to pursue his studies – a sports marketing and business management course – and to continue his rugby career at a more casual pace.
After moving to Hong Kong with his partner Susan, Rabeni was in September 2014 named playing coach of the Discovery Bay Pirates.
He had an immediate impact, with the side winning promotion to Hong Kong Rugby Union's Premiership A division.
Discovery Bay Pirates chairman Steve Kean credited Rabeni with the side’s best-ever season. “He left an impression wherever he went,” Kean said “His dedication, commitment and encouragement to those around him resulted in our most successful season in senior rugby.”
Kean paid homage to the impact Rabeni had on Hong Kong rugby in his short time here, describing him as a gentle, respectful and passionate man. “Seru has left a deep impression on the rugby community in Discovery Bay and Hong Kong, and the world wherever rugby is played and his presence felt,” Kean said.
Rabeni also played top-flight rugby in England, New Zealand and France during a 16-year career which included a five-year spell at Leicester.
Stunned! RIP Seru Rabeni. Absolutely hated every minute playing against you constantly smashing and stepping me. One of the Pacific Greats
— fuimaono-sapolu (@Eliota_Sapolu) March 15, 2016
“Incredibly sad news to hear Seru Rabeni has passed away. Rest in peace big man,” Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan tweeted.
Fiji-born former Wallaby Lote Tuqiri said Rabeni was “a great man taken away too young”, while ex-Samoa centre Eliota Faumaono-Sapolu said Pacific rugby had lost one of its greats.
“Stunned! RIP Seru Rabeni,” he tweeted. “Absolutely hated every minute playing against you constantly smashing and stepping me.”
Scotland’s James Hamilton, a former teammate at Leicester, described Rabeni as “an incredible player and lovely man”.
— Ben Ryan Fiji 7s (@benjaminryan) March 15, 2016
Fiji media reported Rabeni died at his home in Nausori, just outside the capital, Suva, on Tuesday morning.
The Fiji Village website said the cause of death was unknown but quoted his father-in-law saying he had been “sick for a while”.
Rabeni is survived by his partner and daughter in Hong Kong, and his first wife and two sons in Fiji.