Premier Rugby: It’s a family thing at Jeeps for Batibasaga as they take on Bond Uni

By LIZ MOORE

With two cousins in his team and a club culture that feels like family, Fijian backrower Ratu Vio Batibasaga feels right at home at GPS and ready for their do-or-die semi-final against Bond this weekend.

Fresh from a bye in the final round, the big No.8 said his team was pumped to be in the finals, thanks to Brothers losing on the weekend. He said they’re ready to take on the Bullsharks again having just beaten them 33-22 in their final game of the season two weekends ago.

 “Over this year we’ve been on and off, like one week we lose, one week we win. It hasn’t been that consistent. But the two last games we won, I think that’s what made us here where we are now,” Batibasaga said of their recent wins against Bond and their 47-14 thrashing of Souths.

Batibasaga said his team would take several key pieces from those wins. “Mostly we’ll take in our hard defence and more ball-carries and the communication between players about what to execute.”

Described by coach Elwee Prinsloo as an “awesome bloke and outstanding player,” Batibasaga moved to GPS this year after a season playing in NSW. 

Before that, the 28-year-old played in Fiji for his village club, Ratu Filise, which is the same club his Wallaby cousin Tevita Kuridrani hails from. It is also the club Batibasaga toured Australia with when they beat the Australian sevens team in 2016.

The move to Queensland has been a good one for Batibasaga in terms of both rugby and lifestyle. 

“Compared to where I was, playing for GPS is more professional. Even the training is more professional. Everything is on a standard where it needs to be to be part of the game.

“I like it here cos I’ve got heaps of relatives and people I know,” Batibasaga added including his teammate and cousin Elia Tuqiri who brought him to GPS. “Even the weather is much like Fiji weather so I love it here.”

Batibasaga said only a rugby contract would take him away from GPS and his team. 

“GPS is kind of like a family. Even though we come from different places and backgrounds, it’s more like a family thing. Everyone looking after each other, everyone helping each other, not only in the game, but outside the game,” he said.  

As for the ones to watch this weekend, Batibasaga points to frontrower Fred Burke and flyhalf AJ Alatimu.

“Our prop Freddie Burke is the one creating more opportunities. He’s the one that’s leading the scrums and most of our penalties come from the scrums and he’s the one creating everything. And I think our goalkicker AJ Alatimu.”

As for his own game, Batibasaga is looking to be more aggressive in ball-carrying. 

“It’s another step-up game,” he said.

IMAGE: BRENDAN HERTEL / QRU