Canterbury release Fijian speedster
February 2, 2000

A happy Fijian sevens rugby team Wednesday gained the services of Canterbury Crusaders Super 12 speedster Marika Vunibaka for the New Zealand round of the World Sevens series starting here Friday.

Fijian coach Peni Veidreyaki said he had completed negotiations with New Zealand Rugby Football Union chief executive David Rutherford and Crusaders coach Robbie Deans and the only problem now was contacting Vunibaka.

The Crusaders have already released Dallas Seymour for New Zealand and Afato So'oalo for Samoa, although Seymour has since been injured and will not play in the sevens.

Vunibaka's availability is a big bonus for the Fijians, who do not gain captain Waisale Serevi and big centre Vili Satala until late Thursday.

The pair were expected in Suva Wednesday after flying from Europe and join the Fijians here Thursday afternoon.

Veidreyaki said that was a hindrance to his team's build-up but there was little he could do about it, adding that "Serevi is used to arriving the day before and getting straight into it. He'll be okay."

The Fijians, equal with New Zealand on 72 points after four rounds in the series, were early starters Wednesday, having a 5.30 a.m. prayer meeting before a two-hour training gallop on a wet ground.

They were to have another light run in the afternoon before attending a church service with the Fijian community.

Star tryscorer Filimoni Delasau did not train because of a leg strain but is expected to be right for the tournament.

New Zealand trained in front of 1,000 spectators Tuesday with halfback Amasio Raoma appears to have recovered from a rolled ankle suffered yesterday.

Other teams to have arrived by Wednesday morning were Papua New Guinea, Tonga, South Africa, the Cook Islands, United States, Uruguay, Argentina, Samoa, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia.

Croatia arrive late Wednesday and France on Thursday.

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