27 Nov. 2020


『 Want to do everything I can for rugby 』

Samu Kerevi joined Sungoliath last season. His powerful line breaks excited the crowd in the stadium many times. We asked him about his rugby goals in his second season. (Interviewed on Early November/2020)

◆Make everyone happy

――You always exude a happy vibe, but do you realize that you make people happy?

Basically, I have a habit of thinking positively, and I think it's partly because of my Fijian national origin. I have an influence that makes everyone around me happy, which I call my personality. Rugby is played under high pressure, so there are aspects that we have to take seriously, but we also have to find fun in the midst of it, so I think about how to maintain a balance between the two on a daily basis.
Also, there are a lot of leaders in the team, so I have to find my own way to convey the message, and I know that some players won't accept a tough message, so I try to convey the message well.

――From your personal point of view, do you think the Japanese take things too seriously?

I feel like everyone is very professional, but the season is long, and we have to find a balance in that. I feel that Suntory's fitness level is higher than any other team I've been a part of, so I think it's important to think carefully about where we need to be at our peak. We have to make sure we peak in the finals and important games in the second half of the season, so if we work too hard and raise it too much from the beginning, we will continue to be mentally and physically unable to rest, and we will not be able to peak well. So, I think we need to make sure that we don't raise it too high from the beginning. Especially for Japanese players, I think they have been working hard since their university days, so we have to pay attention to the peaking part.

――You were captain of the Reds (Super Rugby), how do you feel about your own captaincy?

As a human being, I think I need to have what is required of me as a leader, so I think it's important to be solid as a human being first. I've never wanted to be a captain, and I don't play for Suntory because I want to be a captain. I think what is required of me is to maximize the ability of the players around me by performing and getting them involved, and I think that is what I need to do. So, first of all, I have to perform well in my own game, and if I can do that, I think I can lead by good examples, and other players will follow me, so that's what I'm trying to do with my enthusiasm.

――Are there many Fijians who are jovial, but think critically?

People in Fiji are pretty relaxed, they understand what's going on around them, and they have a lot of ideas. Majority of them are Christians and have a strong faith in God, so they read the Bible and act on what it says in it. So, in rugby, I usually try to take a step back and try to be objective rather than reacting emotionally to what someone says to me.

◆U20 Fiji National Team, U20 Australia National Team

――What made you move from Fiji to Australia?

My parents couldn't provide for the whole family, so I moved with my grandparents to the Solomon Islands for a time to try to establish a life. Then there was a coup in the Solomon Islands, and we tried to return to Fiji, but there was a coup in Fiji as well and we couldn't go back. I had the option of going to New Zealand, but I ended up in Australia on the way there, and I ended up winning a rugby contract there as well, so I moved to Australia with my grandparents for a chance.

――How old were you?

I was seven years old. There were parts of it that I didn't understand because I was still small, and it was more like a holiday (laughs).

――So you were playing rugby at the time.

Most Fijians play rugby, and every day after school, they play rugby or Sevens.

――Did you fit in Australia?

I didn't speak English at the time, so I thought about going to school and making friends. Also, there was a large Fijian community in Brisbane, so the base of culture, rugby, friends, etc. was all built around the church.

――When did you decide to take rugby seriously?

I think it was around 2013 that I decided to play professionally, I played in South Africa for the U20 Fiji national team in 2012, and then I was selected for the Australian U20 national team, and that was my dream, so I decided to go professional from there.

In fact, in 2013 I had plans to start working in the iron ore business instead of rugby due to an unfortunate event in my family. Brisbane is my second home and I played club rugby there, so I knew I wanted to play in Australia, and I was selected for the U20 national team, but I couldn't play in the tournament because of visa issues, and that's when my grandmother passed away. So, I thought about quitting rugby and starting a job, but fortunately I got a professional offer from the Reds, so I decided to continue playing rugby.

――What do you think is the appeal of rugby?

I started to play rugby as a natural progression, but for Fijians, rugby is like a culture and of course there are other sports, but rugby comes first and whether you play in rugby union or in rugby league, playing rugby professionally is a dream come true.

The fascination with rugby and what I love about it hasn't changed no matter where I play. If you don't have a love for the game, you lose your ambition, which is the same as loving people, but the desire to do anything for the game is fundamental. I believe that I can bring out the best in rugby in a sincere way and I think I have a solid understanding of myself. In rugby you have to work hard when people aren't watching, and there are some very difficult processes, but I think the fact that I am able to make that kind of effort is because I love rugby so much.

◆The goal is to be the best center in the world

――You have also participated in the World Cup, what was your experience of the 2019 World Cup in Japan?

The World Cup may be something you only get to experience once in your life, and it's not something you take for granted, so I wanted to play with my best performance, but unfortunately, the results didn't follow, and we didn't even make it to the semifinals. The experience of the World Cup in Japan motivated me to come to Suntory, and I had a very good feeling about how Japanese people welcomed us, so it was a good experience.

――Was it a challenging to leave Australia and play in Japan?

It's very difficult to compare Super Rugby and Top League, I consider them both to be different games. In particular, Top League has a lot of fast-paced games and requires a high level of fitness, so if a Top League team is to play a Super Rugby team, I think it would be a game where they would use the whole ground to run and win. When I was playing in Australia, I got to experience a lot of different games because New Zealand teams are fast and physical and South African teams are very physical. So, coming from Australia to Japan, I had to adapt.
This is my second season in Japan, but my first season was halfway through and ended. However, I felt a sense of team unity and we all experienced going on campaigns together, which I really enjoyed. Last season I only played four games, so I can't wait to play.

――Did you perform at your best last season?

I think I could improve more, but I think I performed at my best. I want to keep my high standards and my goal is to be the best center in the world. I want to show the best version of Samu Kerevi at Suntory, so I'm going to keep improving and play better and better.

◆Switched on at kickoff

――What do you consider your strengths and what do you want to improve on?

I want to play at a high level in everything I do, but I think my strengths would be in ball carrying and offloading. I know I need to improve my kicking and passing skills and I want to get better on defense. I also want to become an all-round player with a good balance of offense and defense in my mind.

――How do you feel about the environment of playing rugby in Japan?

I think we are in a very good environment because we are able to play under good pressure. The fitness level is high, the skill level is high, and playing with good pressure is important for the team to get better, so I think it's a very good environment. Some weeks of training are even tougher than games.

――What do you keep in mind to switch between the usual Samu Kerevi and Samu Kerevi in the game?

I don't know how other players switch it on, but for me, I try not to take it seriously until kickoff. It's like turning on a switch at kickoff, like the work is about to start, and then the mindset changes from there.
I try not to think too much or assume too much before the game, because in a game, unexpected things happen. Of course, you have to do your homework before a game, but in a game, things happen that you are not expecting, so I try not to panic there.

――Tell us about your family

I have two brothers who play in Japan. I'm not married yet, and I have a girlfriend in Australia. She has come to Japan about three times now, and I think she will come again when Corona situation gets better.

――Lastly, what are your goals for the season?

I want to be the best version of myself and contribute to the team on top of that. And my goal is to continue to be the best center throughout the season.

(Interview & Structure: Kazuyoshi Hariya /Translator: Yuji Yamaguchi /Editing: Yutaro Igarashi)
[Photo: Aki Nagao]