HKRU Premiership

‘Don’t search it,’ says new Scottish centre Sam Vaevae about his unfortunate encounter with Fiji powerhouse Nemani Nadolo

The 26-year-old, who crossed paths with the flying winger while playing for the Cook Islands, is making an impact in the Hong Kong Premiership

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 3:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 10:49pm

He says he remembers it well, if not fondly, and if getting run over by Fiji powerhouse Nemani Nadolo didn’t prepare Sam Vaevae for the rigours of the Hong Kong Premiership, and plenty more, then nothing will.

It was while playing for the Cook Islands in a World Cup qualifier in 2014 that new Bloomberg HK Scottish centre Vaevae crossed paths with the monster Fijian winger, who plies his trade for Montpellier in the French Top 14.

“I remember it well, don’t search it because it’s pretty ugly,” Vaevae says on recalling the incident. “My dad was born in the Cook Islands and I played a few tests for them. It was awesome to play against Fiji.”

It seems Vaevae is safe, with a YouTube search failing to turn up video evidence. Vaevae was called into the Cook Islands’ squad for the Oceania Cup in 2013 as part of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup and played matches against Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Tahiti.

Cook Islands won that tournament before going down to Fiji 108-6 in the final stage of qualifying, although it was Vaevae who slotted his side’s six points from the tee.

While the 26-year-old enjoyed playing international rugby, he only joined the team on two-week camps each time he played and says rugby in the country has a long way to go.

“It was awesome, but it is quite hard with Cook Islands rugby. They don’t quite have the backing and the support to push it any further than it is at the moment,” he said.

“I think that is a struggle for Cook Islands rugby, they started to look like they were going in the right direction and then things hit a bit of a road bump.”

Not surprisingly for someone who has international experience against a team like Fiji, Vaevae has slotted in well with Scottish over the opening five rounds of the season.

Playing in the centre, Vaevae admitted he got off to a slow start but is working his way into things.

“When I first rocked up and saw the size of my room and all the people on the street I got a bit of a shock but Hong Kong is growing on me,” he said. “I’m just trying to get a bit more ball in hand, I struggled a little bit the first couple of rounds, so I’m just enjoying getting a bit more ball.”

From Auckland, Vaevae has played in New Zealand’s Heartland Championship and the National Rugby Championship in Australia for the Sydney Rays.

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He’s impressed his new coach Craig Hammond despite Scottish experiencing an up and down start to the season that has yielded only two wins from five games.

“He’s come into it and he plays a bit of 10 or 12, probably more suited to that 12 position, and he’s pretty direct and he’s got a great skill set, I’ve been really impressed with him,” Hammond said.

“You can see him put the ball across the front and offload balls and he’s been really good for us and he just takes a bit of pressure off [fly half] Gregor [McNeish].”

Scottish take on Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC this weekend, while Saturday’s other match sees Kowloon host Natixis HKFC.

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On Thursday night, the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers stunned Societe Generale Valley 28-10 to grab top spot in the table ahead of the two-week break for the Cup of Nations.

In the KMPG Women’s Premiership, Tigers play CWB Phoenix, Valley lock horns with Kowloon, Gai Wu face Tai Po and City Sparkle do battle with HKFC.