As always, a number of new players will be given the chance to showcase their talent on the national provincial stage for the first time at this weekend’s Bayleys National Sevens tournament at Rotorua.
Recent Rongotai College school leaver and sevens playmaker Esi Komaisavai is one such player looking to grab his opportunities with both hands if selected in the Wellington team.
Esi has played two tournaments wearing Wellington provincial colours this summer, finishing as the leading try scorer with seven tries in six matches in his debut tournament in Auckland in November and playing at thelast weekend.
Esi has been soaking up the experience. “It’s been a good experience for me so far and I’ve been enjoying learning off all the guys, Esi explained to Club Rugby.
“It was a massive step up for me playing for Wellington for the first time,” he said, “just the physical side, going from playing schoolkids to men. There are some really big players out there but I just had to adjust.”
Esi’s second trip to Auckland late last year saw him playing for the Fijian Barbarians team at the inaugural World Schools Sevens.
“Playing with the best sevens players around my age and being in that environment was a really good learning experience for me too,” The Fijian Barbarians were beaten by the New Zealand Condors team 34-7 in the Plate final.
Esi was born in Fiji and spent his formative years there before immigrating to New Zealand with his family aged 10.
He spent his first three years at secondary school at Tawa College before transferring to Rongotai College for his final two years at school.
His father Varani Komaisavai Senior is a science teacher at Rongotai, while his older brother Varani Junior was fullback for Scots College and made the Condor Sevens tournament team in 2013 and the Wellington sevens training squad the following season.
In fifteens rugby Esi has played most positions in the backline. “When I was growing up I pretty much played everywhere from halfback to fullback. First-five is my favourite position, but I don’t mind having a run from fullback.”
Last year Rongotai College made the top four of the WelTec Premiership, missing out to St Pat’s Town 24-3 in their semi-final, following 20-14 and 20-13 (quarter-final) wins over St Pat’s Silverstream.
“Beating St Pat’s Silverstream twice last season was great for us, all the hard work we put in at training was rewarded.”
Unfortunately Rongotai’s dream of playing at the national Condor Sevens was dashed by Bishop Viard College in a Cup quarterfinal heartbreaker at the Wellington qualifying tournament. Rongotai scored a try on fulltime to close the gap to 12-14 but the conversion shaved the upright. If it had gone over Rongotai would’ve advanced to the semi-finals.
“It was really good to have a last hit out with the boys at Condors, it wasn’t the result we wanted but we were still proud of our achievements last year,” Esi said.
Esi’s Rongotai College First XV coach was Dave Meaclam, who said that Esi is a prodigious talent.
“He’s got that special talent,” said Meaclam, who is also a former Wellington sevens manager and assistant coach.
“He can play most positions in fifteens, but we tended to play him a fullback to give him a free licence.
“He understands the game very well; he’s one of these off the cuff players who will do something special. Playmaker or halfback in sevens is his ideal position, close to the ball. Sevens is going to be his game and he could be the next Tomasi Cama.”
Rugby isn’t Esi’s only sport. “I also play tag as a summer sport and played for the New Zealand U21s last year in a series against Australia. We lost 2-3. They are not that big, just fast and very structured.” He has also played touch for Wellington and has played volleyball and cricket as well.
This year he will link up with the Northern United club, who he has already made his debut for at the Wellington club sevens American Ambassador’s tournament in November.
It’s been six seasons since Buxton Popoalii last lit up Jerry Collins Stadium with his dazzling footwork and lightning speed, and Esi could potentially do the same in future years.
“I live just down the road from Porirua Park and it was my junior club as well. I used to always go down and watch the Norths Premiers play when I was younger.
“I always dreamed about playing in that team, and hopefully I will one day. But I’ll just take it one step at a time.”
Look out for Esi Komaisavai’s name on rugby scoresheets sooner rather than later.