By SIMON ABANA
in Suva, Fiji
THE Solomon Islands Rugby Union Federation (SIRUF) in partnership with SolTuna are set to host a historic tournament in Suva, Fiji, today.
After weeks of preparation, the inaugural Soltuna 7s tournament gets underway at USP Laucala sport grounds this morning.
Two home teams, the Solomon Islands national rugby 7s side and Islanders rugby club will compete against 10 teams from Fijian of Solomon Islands descent for the ultimate prize.
The national side have been in Fiji this week since Monday as part of their build-up towards the tournament.
Taking to this paper yesterday, SIRUF’s technical advisor, Ilivasi Tabua said the Soltuna 7s is a great event for the national 7s side.
“Well for me this is a great event not only for rugby but to revisit the historical ties between our Solomon Islanders descendent in Fiji and our people back in Solomons.
“This is an historic event, this is not the first one because they have done it before,” he said.
The former Fijian World Cup coach stressed the tournament gives the national players a different level of competition.
“For the national team I think the tournament provide a platform for them to exposure to competitive rugby.
“Engaging in a very competitive rugby sevens competition will only get them better and challenge themselves to see that they are playing against these guys here.
“Well they (Fiji) are the Olympic champions so why not come here and expose yourselves to why they are Olympic champions and how they play.
“You can see in the Mini Games that was after the Oceania championships and lesson learn from playing against players from here who played with Malaita Subi in the independence tournament last year.
“So these are the sort of things because the better we engage with our counterparts, the better we engage with our Melanesian brothers will only better us in what we want to do,” Tabua explained.
His compatriot, national 7s team coach Alivereti Mocelutu assembled a squad mixture of youth and experience.
Mocelutu told Star Sports the tournament is pathway towards SIRUF’s development goals.
“The initiative for the tournament is to strengthen the bond and relationship, enlighten roots and most importantly, scope potential players to represent the Solomons in future tournaments, especially the Oceania 7s, Pacific Mini Games, Pacific Games and World Rugby Sevens Series.
“This is our pathways to short and long term plans,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fijian national 7s captain Jerry Tuwai was invited as a special guest during the tournament to motivate the players.
“We have been in touch with Fiji rugby to have the national team captain Tuwai as our special guest during the Soltuna 7s.
“He just won the Canada Vancouver 7s and also he has Solomon Islands roots so his presence at the pitch side will definitely motivate the players,” Mocelutu added.
Solomon Islands high commissioner to Fiji, Patterson Oti will officially open the tournament.
Meanwhile, Islands rugby club are also determined to well in the competition as they will be banking on players from their sister club, Island brothers to help them in the Soltuna 7s tournament.
Islander’s team manager Derrick Pongi said they knew it’s going to be tough but they have travelled to compete.
The Soltuna 7s tournament is first of its kind to be held outside the country.