Fijian rugby legend Waisale Serevi, who now runs Serevi Rugby out of Seattle, was inducted in the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame during the Hong Kong 7s in March 23.
Serevi is recognized as the greatest 7s rugby player of all time. After an international career spanning more than 20 years, Serevi is the first Fijian player to be inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame. He played his first international match in 1988 and went on to capture three straight Hong Kong Sevens titles (1990-1992) before leading Fiji to two Rugby World Cup Sevens Championships in 1997 and 2005. IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset called him "a true legend."
"I am honored and humbled by this recognition from the IRB," Serevi said when presented with his induction plaque. "The game of rugby has given my family and me so much and it is a privilege to join so many amazing players in the Hall of Fame. It is also quite special to receive this honor here in Hong Kong, a place that has meant so much to my career and that I love coming back to.”
Serevi’s magic was not just restricted to Hong Kong, though, as he lit up Rugby stadiums all over the world with his outstanding array of skills. His iconic status is such that in the summer of 2006 a group of Rugby enthusiasts named their team ‘The Sons of Serevi’ after him.
Able to turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye with a swivel of his hips, an untouchable side-step or through a wonderfully weighted pass, Serevi still holds the record for most points scored (297) in Rugby World Cup Sevens tournaments. In Rugby terms he possessed a sixth sense, prompting his former coach Franck Boivert to say: “When he plays, Serevi shows to the blind, talks to the deaf and gets the mute to sing.”
Serevi was one of the few players to play both Fifteens and Sevens formats, the former taking him to play for clubs in England, France and Japan. He appeared in 38 Tests for Fiji at 15s, including three Rugby World Cup campaigns, scoring 221 points in a stop-start career that ran from 1989 to 2003. He also represented the Barbarians five times and is the only player in Fijian Rugby to have played in every position across the backline.
While he played both formats, it was in the Sevens arena that his genius was plain for all to see. New Zealand Sevens legend Eric Rush once admitted: “At times when we played Fiji, the things Serevi did on the field made me want to turn around and clap.”
For the finest Sevens player of all time Serevi’s swansong in April 2009 appropriately came at the Greenyards, the home of Melrose RFC and the place where the sport was born in 1883. Turning out in the unlikely colours of Leeds Metropolitan University, Serevi’s involvement lasted only one tie as his adopted side lost to then Scottish champions Ayr.
Reflecting on his final match, he said: “The goal was to come to Melrose and it didn’t matter if I spent five minutes or a whole day on the field. This is where Sevens Rugby started and it is part of my life because Sevens has made me the person I am today.”
As a coach he was no less successful. In his first full season as Fiji Sevens player-coach in 2005-06, Serevi led Fiji to their first and only IRB Sevens World Series title, breaking New Zealand’s stranglehold on the series. They were also bronze medallists at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Fiji Rugby Union CEO Manasa S Baravilala said: “It’s a huge honour for “Wai” to be included into the IRB Hall of Fame and it’s an equally grand moment for Fiji Rugby and at quite a poignant time with Fiji Rugby celebrating its 100 years of existence this year.”
“It’s because of players such as Waisale Serevi, who rose from obscurity to dazzle and delight rugby fields and fans around the world, that Fiji Rugby is considered one of world sport’s iconic brands producing players who pass, score and mesmerize from any corner of the paddock in any corner of the world.”
Along with his family and his strong Christian faith, Rugby continues to anchor Serevi's world. In co-founding Serevi Rugby Nation, the 44-year-old has turned his attention to giving back to the Game that has given him so much.
What Serevi has also done is use his rugby fame to embark on a new venture. In 2011 he launched the Sereve company, which fields all-star 7s teams that participate around the world, runs tournaments, sells apparel, runs branches of the USA's Olympic Development Program, and, perhaps most importantly, runs camps and clinics around the USA.
Headquartered in Seattle, Serevi® is focused on growing the game of rugby in North America and beyond. Serevi offers on-field programming for coaches and players through the youth to elite spectrum. It also offers performance and casual rugby apparel to players and fans of the sport. For more information on Serevi Rugby, including upcoming player and coach training sessions visit www.serevirugby.com.
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