A maiden season for a Super Rugby expansion side is challenging in the best of circumstances.
But for the Fijian Drua, a global pandemic has added several layers of complexity as they prepare for their historic season opener against the NSW Waratahs in Parramatta on February 18.
COVID-19 roadblocks meant the Drua – who played in Australia’s National Rugby Championship before graduating to Super Rugby Pacific – have based themselves in NSW’s Lennox Head, rather than Suva, to prepare for the big dance.
Season one will be a nomadic experience, to say the least.
The Drua will play ‘home’ games at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium (rounds three and eight), Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval (round five) and Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium (round 13).
They also hope to play in front of their rugby-mad home fans at Suva’s ANZ Stadium in round 11.
‘Bernie’ Donaldson wins No.10 battle as Waratahs name strong team for final trial
The lanky Randwick playmaker once dubbed “Bernie Larkham” by teammates is set to win the race for the Waratahs No.10 jersey in round one of Super Rugby, after being named in the hotseat for NSW’s last trial match against Queensland.
Ben Donaldson will play five-eighth in a near full-strength Waratahs team for the trial in Roma on Saturday night, in a backline also containing Wallabies Jake Gordon, Lalakai Foketi and Izzy Perese, and with former Wales centre Jamie Roberts named on the bench.
Along with Angus Bell, Harry Johnson-Holmes and Lachie Swinton in the forward pack, new Kiwi recruit Geoff Cridge will start at lock.
The three-way jostle for the no.10 jersey has been won by Donaldson ahead of Tane Edmed and Will Harrison.
An AC-joint shoulder injury picked up in the Brumbies trial two weeks ago ruled Harrison out of the Queensland clash – and will see him race the clock for round one – but Donaldson’s nose was in front regardless after finishing last year in the no.10 and then playing strongly in the trial win over the ACT.
Donaldson, who debuted for NSW in 2019, was injured heading into last year’s season and was behind Harrison in the pecking order. But injury to his former Australian under 20 teammate mid-year gave Donaldson a starting chance and a dominant performance against the Force saw the 22-year-old stay in the seat for the last three games.