15 Jul 2021

Fiji rugby team happy over Covid jersey compromise

4:47 pm on 15 July 2021

The Fiji rugby coach believes they've reached a balanced compromise over the team's playing jerseys for this weekend.

Peni Ravai

Fiji wore blank jerseys against the All Blacks last weekend. Photo: Photosport

The side pulled pin on wearing jerseys with "Vaccinate Fiji" emblazoned on the chest for last weekend's test against the All Blacks.

This week, they've agreed to a slightly tweaked version, with the shirts to read "Vaccinate Fiji" and the words "It's your choice".

Fiji coach Vern Cotter said the jersey idea was "sprung" on the players at late notice last week, without enough consultation.

Fiji coach Vern Cotter.

Fiji coach Vern Cotter. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

That conversation has now taken place.

"It was important to be able to have a discussion and make it a democratic choice and that's what happened," he said.

"It happened early in the week - we wanted it done and dusted early on and it was done and dusted Monday, and now we're just focusing on the game and there's a clear message there."

But not all the players agree with the decision to vaccinate, so a compromise was reached.

Fiji  was supposed to wear jerseys with the words "Vaccinate Fiji" on the chest in Dunedin.

"It's your choice" will be added to the "Vaccinate Fiji" message for this weekend's test. Photo: Supplied/Fiji Rugby

"There is the vaccinate message and the obviously not everybody agrees in getting vaccinated so 'your choice' on the jersey certainly makes that very clear," he said.

"We're aware of the plight, everybody is aware of the plight of Fiji at the moment and sympathise. That's the stance that everybody has taken. We feel it's a well balanced stance and hopefully all we need to do now is just focus on the game."

Fiji is being hit hard by Covid-19, with close to 10,000 active cases in isolation and 69 reported deaths, the vast majority of them recorded since the latest outbreak began in April.

However vaccine hesitancy remains staunch in pockets of Fiji, and the government last week announced tough penalties in order to compel public servants to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

The President of the Fiji Society in Hamilton, Samisoni Tikoinasau, was a keen observer at Fiji's training run in Hamilton this morning.

President of the Fiji Society in Hamilton, Samisoni Tikoinasau.

President of the Fiji Society in Hamilton, Samisoni Tikoinasau. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Vinnie Wylie

He said there were differing views in the community about whether to get vaccinated or not.

"In the islands with sickness in general there's always other ways that they look at to try and counter sickness but on this scale, with this pandemic, I think the message is getting to them slowly that they should get vaccinated," he said.

"Even though the situation around the jersey last week wasn't very clear this week they're prepared to wear the jumper with the "Vaccinate Fiji" message and I think their choices also need to be respected."

Savaira Vuidreketi was watching Fiji train today with three of her four children.

Clinical nurse specialist and Fiji rugby fan Savaira Vuidreketi with three of her children.

Clinical nurse specialist and Fiji rugby fan Savaira Vuidreketi with three of her children. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Vinnie Wylie

The clinical nurse specialist is fully vaccinated and was until recently one of the Covid-19 vaccinators working in the Hamilton area.

"I'm a firm believer of that it works, that together if you do vaccinate you will be able to battle this thing out together, Covid-19...and I understand why people have concerns around the vaccination itself. So (I'm) just encouraging families if you have concerns to seek professionals."

Fiji hooker Sam Matavesi said the team is pleased to have been able to discuss the matter properly after feeling rushed in Dunedin.

"We found out quite late in the week and it was a bit put on us, instead of us making the decision," he said.

"I think everyone is happy with the outcome now because it's a choice and everyone has a choice to do what they want to do."

Fiji hooker Sam Matavesi.

Fiji hooker Sam Matavesi. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Northampton Saints front-rower has already has his first dose of a Covid vaccine but supported the decision for others to make up their own mind.

"At the end of the day we play rugby. We're not politicians. We're not doctors. We don't make the medicine so I think everyone has to have their own choice of what they want to do."