Fijian Drua have put the awe many grew up with towards the Crusaders behind them as they prepare for their home game against the Super Rugby Pacific champions in Lautoka on Saturday.

Head coach Mick Byrne, the former All Blacks' skills coach, said the Drua learned last year the value to be had when playing in front of families, friends and fans, and he hoped the 16th player, his term for the home support, would be out in force.

"This week, the boys will be looking forward to our 16th player to help cheer us on as we take on the Super Rugby champions.

"The noise around the ground is going to be great.

"We'd like to think the challenges that the teams have here are going to be experienced when they get off the plane.

"The people of Fiji can't wait to have the opposition teams here, and they're going to be well hosted. They're going to be well looked after.

"And, for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon, they're going to be the enemy. But the rest of the time, they're going to be tourists. Hopefully, we can make that two hours on Saturday a miserable time for them."

The Drua will be a possible return for captain Ratu Meli Derenalagi. Wing Eroni Sau will debut, while first five-eighths Kemu Valetini could make his debut from the bench.



Sau is known as 'the Sledgehammer', a nickname when playing with the Drua team that won the Australian National Rugby Championship in 2018.

Byrne said the challenge for the Drua was to get beyond the fact many of his side grew up with the Crusaders as their favourite team.

"The thing with our boys is they've got to believe in themselves first. When I talked to our players last year, a lot of them had their favourite players in the opposite team, and I'm like, 'Well, can you just wait until after the game to get their autograph?' So we experienced a whole sort of dilemma.

"Now that they've gone out and played against them last year, this year that red jersey is the wrong coloured jersey, so we'll be going after them.

"We understand that we need to go out there, be physical with them and take them on.

"Our goal is to go after the game physically from the start. If we can keep 15 on the track then we're in the game, that's our goal."

The Fijian Drua host the Crusaders at 3.35pm FJT, Saturday 11 March, at Churchill Park in Lautoka.