All Blacks v Fiji: Upbeat Fijians touchdown in Dunedin, confident they can run All Blacks close


The 'Flying Fijians' have touched down in Dunedin before the first test against the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

The team were greeted by members of the city's Fijian community, along with the Ngā Piko o te Taiari kapa haka group.

They also received a guard of honour from the City of Dunedin Pipe Band, as they left the airport onto the team's buses.

The players landed on the tarmac to a bitter 4C, although the wind chill made it feel even colder, but veteran winger Nemani Nadolo says the warm welcome put all of that out of their minds.

"It was really special for the boys to get a piece of the Māori culture. We weren't expecting it - we're usually in and out.

"It was really welcoming from the people of Dunedin and it's what rugby is all about. We're really grateful that the Dunedin community has embraced us and we look forward to Saturday."

The Fijians repaid the favour, singing to the crowd in attendance.

The 'Flying Fijians' and the All Blacks had only met five times in the nations' combined history of 215 years of international rugby, with New Zealand winning by an average of more than 60 points.

So his team are well aware of the mammoth task ahead, Nadolo says.

"We're a very good side. You can't go into any game or anything in life with a losing mentality, so we're excited by the challenge.

"As rugby players, you want to test yourself against the best and some of us have been watching the All Blacks for years on TV. Now we've got a great opportunity on Saturday to go toe-to-toe with the benchmark of world rugby at the moment."

All Blacks v Fiji: Upbeat Fijians touchdown in Dunedin, confident they can run All Blacks close

The teams last met a decade ago, also in Ōtepoti, when many of the current squad were still schoolboys.

That occasion also happened to be the closest match between the teams, as Fiji went down 60-14, but that was at Carisbrook on a bitter southern night.

Not only would playing under the roof suit Fiji's flair better, they would also have plenty of support in the stands. Among them Lavinia Cikamatana, who was also on hand to greet the players off the plane last night.

She says it means a lot to the Fijian community to welcome them and the community spent a month preparing.

"It is special. We would really love it if we had done the full Fijian welcome, where we have the kava, but we just had a short time, so this is appropriate, putting garlands over them and with a song - a Fijian welcome."

Ōtepoti's Fijian community says there's no question where their loyalties lie and it would cheer for the Flying Fijians on Saturday night.

The players and supporters know the weight of history is against them, but also on their minds is the COVID-19 crisis confronting the islands at present.

Players carry the people of Fiji in their hearts and hopey to give them a reason to smile on Saturday night.


Join us at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks v Fiji test