Sireli creates a storm at Sandy Park
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter believes new signing Sereli Naqelevuki will help bring a touch of the ‘X-Factor’ to the Chiefs back division as they look to build on their impressive start to life in the Aviva Premiership.
After weeks of speculation regarding the Fijian international joining the Chiefs, the 29-year-old back was officially paraded on Monday at the club’s Sandy Park base.
An imposing figure, who stands at 6’4 and tips the scales at almost 18 stone, Naqelevuki is someone Baxter believes can flourish in English rugby’s top flight.
“We’re very pleased to have Sireli on board,” said Baxter. “We’ve been hoping to have him for some time, but with international players it can sometimes be a bit of a drawn out process. That said, he’s here now and we’re looking to get him up to speed as quickly as possible.”
Having previously featured for Western Province in the Currie Cup, as well as Super 14 side Stormers, Naqelevuki arrives in Devon with a wealth of big game experience.
“We’ve watched a lot of him on tape playing in the Super 14 and at international level and you can see he has real quality, both in attack and defence, ” added Baxter. “He has a high work rate; he gets himself on the ball a lot in the game; and he’s also a bit of an X-Factor player, who can make things happen out of nothing. I suppose he is something a bit different to what we are normally used to.”
With pace to burn and a destructive presence, Suva-born Naqelevuki – who can operate either on the wing or in the centre – could yet prove a key addition to the Exeter squad over the coming months.
“I’ve already told him what we expect of him,” said Baxter, who in November will welcome New Zealander Jason Shoemark to the club following the end of the ITM Cup campaign. “Early doors we just want Sereli to work hard; get his head down and just get on with things. From talking to him already I’m pretty confident that will happen very quickly.”
As for the player himself, he cannot wait to sample his first taste of English rugby. Having jetted in from South Africa at the weekend, Naqelevuki watched his new team-mates in action during Saturday’s win over Newcastle Falcons and was suitably impressed.
“I’m very happy to be here,” he said. “The set up at the club seems very good and I think it will be a very exciting season for me and the club.”
With fellow Fijian international Josh Matavesi already at the club, Naqelevuki admits the settling in process has been relatively easy.
“Obviously I know Josh, but all the guys seem really nice. Before coming here I didn’t know too much about the club, but already I can see it is very professional and I think it is going to be a good stay for me.”
Naqelevuki’s proven record means he will add yet more quality to Baxter’s squad, but he knows breaking into the first XV will not be easy, especially given the start made by the Premiership newcomers.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for me, but my aim is to train hard for a few weeks and, if I get my chance, give it my best shot. I have watched a lot of the Premiership on TV before coming here, so I know it will be a different type of game to what I am used to. I think, though, it will be good for me and my game to experience something different like this.”