Naqelevuki tried as a forward

2014-08-08 07:45
Sireli Naqelevuki (Gallo images)
Cape Town - Former Stormers and Western Province wing Sireli Naqelevuki will be tried out as a forward by his English club, Exeter Chiefs.

According to Exeter’s official website, head coach Rob Baxter will use pre-season as a chance to experiment a new role for the imposing Fijian.

Having been sidelined for much of last season with a troublesome knee complaint, Baxter is looking at switching the 33-year-old into the forwards this season to help utilise his considerable frame.

Naqelevuki - who is set to begin his fifth season at Sandy Park - initially arrived as a wing, making his debut in Exeter’s maiden season in the Aviva Premiership in an away game at Northampton Saints.

Over time, however, Baxter has mainly utilised Naqelevuki in the centre of the club’s back division where he has claimed 14 tries in 55 first team appearances.

However, in an innovative move by the Exeter coaching staff, the Fijian international is set to play in a couple of academy games this month as a forward to see how he adapts to the change.

“Sireli is training a fair bit with the forwards with a view that we’re going to have a look at him as a back-rower,” said Baxter. “We’ll see how that goes in a few pre-season run-outs. We are looking at him as a ball-carrying back-row option.

“It’ll be relatively easy for Sireli to drop back to playing in the backs if that’s what we decide to do, but he’s spending a bit of time with the forwards and that gives us the opportunity to have a look at him in a couple of the academy run-outs we have on Tuesday nights to give him the opportunity to settle in and see how it goes for him. Whether we get to look at him in one of the main pre-season games will depend on how those outings go.”

Naqelevuki had a few good games at Western Province but the care-free manner in which went about his business at times had Cape rugby fans pulling out their hair.

He is best remembered in the Cape for committing a silly high tackle in the 2009 Currie Cup semi-final against the Blue Bulls at Newlands. WP, heavy underdogs on the day, were leading 19-18 with only a few minutes remaining before the Fijian pulled off an inexcusable high hit. Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn slotted the penalty to hand the Bulls a 21-19 win.

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