Greater than a game: 7s about more than rugby for fans of Fiji

"Once a year we get together and really show Canada and the rest of the world that there are Fijians here as well and take pride in our team," says Bobby Naicker, the country's honorary consul in Canada.

Fiji won last year's Canada Sevens and 2 other tournament stops this season

Fiji Fans wave flags during day 2 of the 2017 Canada Sevens Rugby Tournament. (Derek Cain / Getty Images)

Canada is the home team at BC Place during the Canada Sevens rugby tournament, but for fans of Fiji, the two-day event is about more than the games on the pitch.

"It's a culture. It's a religion in Fiji," said Bobby Naicker, the country's honorary consul in Canada. 

Sevens rugby is a faster version of 15 a side rugby.

The HSBC World Rugby Sevens series consists of 10 tournaments held around the world, in which national sevens teams compete for series points at each tournament.

An overall champion is crowned at the end of the season based on points accumulated throughout the 10 events.

'Pride in our team'

The stop in Vancouver has given Fijians living in North America a rare chance to show their national pride and cheer for a winning team at a major sporting event.

"Once a year we get together and really show Canada and the rest of the world that there are Fijians here as well and take pride in our team." he said. 

Team Fiji celebrate with a trophy after defeating Kenya in 2018 to win the gold medal game at Canada Sevens at BC Place. (Ben Nelms / Getty Images)

Naicker explained the country hasn't had many sporting heroes to look to, with the most prominent being golfer and three-time major winner Vijay Singh. 

"I'm not even sure you call it a sport," said Naicker of rugby. "When the sevens team is playing, everything stops in Fiji."

Winning tradition

Fiji's team has given its rugby fans plenty to cheer about in recent years. 

In 2016, it became the inaugural gold medallist at rugby sevens' Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro. The rugby-mad country even launched a seven-dollar bill in honour of the triumph. 

Fiji's Alasio Naduva (10) scores a try against Kenya during World Rugby Sevens Series action in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday March 9, 2019. (Ben Nelms / The Canadian Press)

Last year, the Fiji sevens beat Kenya in the final in Vancouver, one of five tour wins last season, and the first of four straight.

​"It was pandemonium," said supporter Samuel Pratap. "Fiji fans are the craziest."

"Fiji always puts on a show whether it's on the pitch or in the stands." 

The team narrowly finished behind South Africa in the 2018 final Sevens Series standings. 

Bobby Naicker, bottom centre in blue shirt, poses with Fiji's sevens team after hosting a dinner for the squad ahead of the 2019 Canada Sevens. (Bobby Naicker)

This season, the team has captured two titles on the World Rugby Sevens Series tour, winning in both South Africa and New Zealand. 

Back in Vancouver, the team is once again among the favourites to win the Canada Sevens, but fell to the Canadians in a first round game Saturday. 

"We're kind of torn," said Pratap.

The team bounced back with wins over Samoa and Kenya to top the pool and will play New Zealand in Sunday's quarter-final, a game their rabid fans expect them to win. 

"We're going to take it home," said Pratap.

Fijian fans are among the loudest and proudest at BC Place during the Canada Sevens. (Don Mackinnon / AFP / Getty Images)

About the Author

Matthew Black

@TheMatthewBlack

Matthew Black is a B.C.-based writer, producer and reporter. He writes mostly about sports and has worked for CBC in Toronto and Vancouver as well as abroad in London.

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