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‘The Flash’ impresses in France

Thursday 26 January 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Rugby Union, Sports


‘The Flash’ impresses in France
Stade Français winger Peniasi Dakuwaqa, former Tupapa Panthers player, at full speed against Treviso in the Challenge Cup last Saturday. He scored his first try for the French Top 14 club. Dakuwaqa plays alongside well-known French player Sekou Macalou and former South African great Vincent Koch, to name a few. ICON SPORT/Midi Olympique/23012529

Former Tupapa Panthers speedster Peniasi ‘The Flash’ Dakuwaqa has made an impressive start to his professional rugby union career with the French Top 14 club, Stade Français.

Dakuwaqa, who featured prominently for the Panthers in both rugby union and league, joined the Paris based club as a “medical joker” – a common term in French rugby for a player who joins a club as an injury replacement on a short-term basis – late last year.

However he is already turning heads with an impressive start for the club, including his first try last weekend in the EPCR Challenge Cup – an annual rugby union competition organised by European Professional Club Rugby.

Dakuwaqa, 25, played for Stade Français in the Super 7s tournament before making his debut in the Challenge Cup against South Africa’s Lions earlier this month. He came off the bench and played for the remaining 19 minutes in the 17-7 win.

Last weekend the speedy winger came off the bench (in the 65th minute) against Italian side Benetton Treviso and scored a try minutes later in Stade Français’ close 32-35 loss.

Despite the defeat, Stade Français has qualified for the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup against Perpignan this Saturday (Cook Islands time). Dakuwaqa has travelled with the team and is likely to feature in this weekend’s clash.

According to Midi Olympique, a French bi-weekly newspaper, “the performance of the Fijian winger Peniasi Dakuwaqa did not go unnoticed” against Treviso.

“Entering the game at the end in place of Stéphane Ahmed (65th), the one who has the status of medical joker for Telusa Veainu scored a try almost on his first ball,” reported Midi Olympique.

“At this point in the game, the Stadistes (Stade Français) are ten points behind on the scoreboard. The ball hits the left wing, well offset by his young hooker Lucas Peyresblanques, Dakuwaqa accelerates in his lane, and finds himself facing the last defender … counting on the supersonic speed of Dakuwaqa, the latter decides to overwhelm the last defender of Treviso in a narrow space, with simply incredible acceleration, before flattening his first try in the Stade Français jersey. Unbelievable.”

Dakuwaqa’s dash was recorded at 35.5 kilometres per hour.

Midi Olympique further stated “… this player with an atypical career, landed in the capital in complete anonymity, is only very little used. He hasn’t made any appearances in the Top 14. For now, he has to settle for a few bouts in the Challenge Cup. In total: 34 minutes of playing time”.

“According to several sources, the player from the Cook Islands would have the speed record over 100 metres there with a time of 10.5 seconds. Something to panic the counters.

“No doubt Gonzalo Quesada’s staff hopes to make him progress in understanding the game system. And for good reason. Even if he is already 25 years old, he has never evolved before in the professional world and sometimes has some shortcomings in his placement. But the French Stadium is, perhaps, a time bomb.”

Dakuwaqa’s former coach Darren Piri of Tupapa Panthers was not surprised by the speedster’s superb start in the European competition.

“It’s all him, what he has achieved and where he is now is because he worked hard for it and good on him for making it to where he is today, its his doing and I don’t think I have anything to do with his achievements,” a modest Piri said.

“He is a player who trains hard on his own, works hard to improve on his fitness to a level he is satisfied with and all these are reflected in his performances on the field. He also has a good understanding of the game.

“Everyone in the team and those who have known him here are stoked with his achievements. On behalf of myself and the club, we would like to congratulate him and wish him the best.”

Dakuwaqa is one of the three former Panthers players who have secured professional rugby contracts with French Top 14 clubs.

Eroni “The Sledgehammer” Sau and Aminiasi Tuimaba – also coached by Piri – are playing in France and have played for the Fiji 7s and 15s teams. Tuimaba was part of the Tokyo Olympics gold medal winning team.

Piri said: “They were already high-quality players when they joined the club (Tupapa) so we can’t really say we have helped them to get there. They performed well and earned themselves the opportunities they have now.”

Piri said he hoped their achievements would inspire the young local players especially those on overseas scholarships to push themselves and excel in the sport.

  • Rashneel Kumar/Midi Olympique