Super Sefa more than just speed demon

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sefa Naivalu was just a Wallabies spectator in June, but he’ll be thrown into the thick of the action against England on Saturday.

His Twickenham debut has been a long time coming and the speedster said his second Wallabies start meant everything to him, after waiting three years to become eligible.

“I'm very grateful with everything. it's a long way for me to come and put on the Wallaby jersey, it's a milestone for me. From Fiji, through club rugby, NRC and Super Rugby and then straight into the Wallabies,” he said.

Naivalu's deceptive footwork will be a weapon for the Wallabies. Photo: Getty ImagesThe winger brings some incredible pace to Australia’s starting lineup - he covered 100m in just 10.50 during his high school days - but it’s his other weapons that forced Michael Cheika’s hands ahead of the Twickenham finale.

“I don’t know if he’s the quickest [man in Australian rugby] but he’s sharp, England have got some pretty sharp wingers themselves,” he said.

“If you look at where he’ll be attacking a lot of the time, he’s going to be coming up against [Jonathan] Joseph and [Jonny] May or Joseph and [Marland]  Yarde, who have both got plenty of toe themselves.

“It’s always good to have a winger who is quite quick. He’s starting to pick his time to get involved, he’s also been good defensively which is another important part of the game for our wingers as well.”

Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps knows what it’s like to try and prepare for Naivalu, having faced off in Super Rugby and the Waratahs scrumhalf said he would be a multi-faceted weapon in London.

“If you give him some space, he's odds on he's going to score every time,” he said.

“Not only his speed but his ability to break tackles and keep his leg drive through contact is something that is really hard to defend against.

“One on one, he's either going to beat you for pace or he's going to step you on the inside and shrug you off."

“He's the kind of guy, at the Waratahs when we're playing the Rebels, we've got to put a couple on him and make sure he doesn't really get too much space to move other wise, he's going to make us pay.”

Sefa Naivalu has plenty of strength. Photo: Getty ImagesPhipps said it had been exciting to watch Naivalu’s rise in his three years in Australia, coming through the club rugby ranks after moving over from Fiji, impressing in the NRC and finally cracking the Test side after becoming eligible in September.

“The boys really enjoy [watching] someone like that work so hard and now get his opportunity and I don't think nerves will be an issue for him.

“He's nice and shy now but he's a very good bloke and a very good player, so he's going to be great for us.”

Australia takes on England at Twickenham on Saturday, kicking off at 1:30am AEDT, LIVE on SBS and beIn Sport (Foxtel Channel 515).