The Fijian Test team will wear special jerseys to address and create awareness about the unfolding Covid-19 crisis in their homeland when they play the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday.
The match and series are historic for Fiji as it will be their first Test in New Zealand in 10 years and their first-ever back-to-back Tests against the All Blacks.
But it is taking place in the shadow of the Covid crisis in Fiji. The Pacific nation with a population around 900,000 people has been battling a coronavirus outbreak since April. During that time it has seen more than 7,800 cases, over 700 new cases in each of the last two days and 48 deaths.
The spread of the virus has been hastened by low vaccination numbers, so the Fiji players will wear a special jersey in Saturday’s test which will carry a message encouraging their compatriots to get vaccinated.
Fiji’s New Zealand-born head coach Vern Cotter said his players are hugely admired and their participation in the drive to have most Fijians vaccinated will likely be influential.
“Our Fijian rugby players are famed at home and the world over,” Cotter said. “They inspire Fijians of all ages and are honoured to carry forward a message that will help our people and our country emerge from the Covid crisis.”
Cotter said normally Fiji fans would be flying in to support their team against the All Blacks but now can’t because of travel restrictions.
“We hope Fijians choose to fully vaccinate so they can get back to supporting their favourite teams in person in any country.” he said.
Photo: Fiji Rugby Union