Selecting from afar2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
During office hours, you can usually catch Tevita Tu’ifua out on the mainstreet as the Onehunga Community Liaison Officer, but outside those hours he is busy organising the Europe-based Tonga National Rugby Sevens Team in preparation for the upcoming Final Olympic Qualification Tournament in Monaco.
As head coach, Tevita had already been training a squad in New Zealand, but an announcement from the Tonga Rugby Union advised that, due to the ongoing risks associated with Covid-19, only players currently playing professionally in Europe are eligible for selection. While supporting the decision, Tevita has been dealing with the unenviable task of helping to select the European-based team from this side of the globe, with support from his manager, Richard Weightman. Italy-based Coach, Viliami Vaki, has been appointed fill-in coach, with former Tonga international player, and France-based coach, Manager Vungakoto Lilo, joining him in Monaco to manage the team.
“The situation has been difficult with Covid-19, and having to organise the team from over here has been tough at times. We’ve had to rely on professionalism from the players and staff from both sides,” says Tevita. He’s no stranger to the game; as a member of the Tonga national rugby union team, playing wing or centre, he participated at the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cup. He’s also played provincial rugby in New Zealand with Auckland and Counties Manukau, and represented Tonga in the World Rugby Sevens Series between 2002 and 2007.
It has been a busy few months for the father of six leading up to the European tour, and he is grateful to his supportive wife and family. His teenage daughters share his passion for the sport, both of them representing Onehunga High School in the Girl’s First XV Rugby Team. “I just love coaching. It feels good to help players improve their game – to succeed and make a name for themselves. Their success is our success, and seeing them smile is so worthwhile. Rugby has given me so many great opportunities. I’ve met people I never ever thought I would meet, who have helped contribute to our small nation of Tonga,” he says.
The Tonga National Rugby Sevens Team pictured training during quarantine