Champion’s profile is back in the new year and to kick off 2019 we feature Nik Regenvanu, the captain of the Vanuatu Rugby 7s side that won the 1999 Pacific Games bronze medal.
The second-born out of four boys gained his love for the oval ball game at an early age. Living in the Paton Memorial Church yard where his mum Pastor Dorothy was based, he had Independence Park right across the road.
It was there that he got to watch all the rugby matches and witness the big teams of the day such as Tafea, Shepherds, Vate Bulldogs, Police and Ifira face off each week. He also got inspired by Sam Malachai who was a popular rugby player back in the 80s.
The Central School boy then began playing touch with the rugby players during training sessions in the afternoon. It was from then on, that rugby became the number one game of choice all through out primary, high school, university and early work life.
After passing to Malapoa College, the boy from Uripiv Island of the east coast of Malekula only spent one year at Vanuatu’s most prestigious high school. He then left the shores of Vanuatu to attend boarding school in Brisbane, Australia.
The son of Vanuatu’s first Minister of Lands Sethy Regenvanu continued playing school boy rugby all throughout high school and later on while studying journalism and economics, he played rugby for the University of Queensland under 19 and first grade teams which competes in the Brisbane Rugby Championship.
Nik also made the Queensland Under 21 representative team and won the Australian Championship in 1994. His team mates Toutai Kefu, Nathan Gray and David Griffen ended up playing for Australia and won the 1999 World Cup in Wales.
Upon arrival in Vanuatu, Vate Bulldogs rugby club was the team for him to play for as this was the team he supported while growing up. Other brother Malpati Regenvanu played for the Le Lagoon Hornets.
Under the Vanuatu Rugby Union presidency of David Saul and the guidance of late coach Charles Valentine, the former ANZ Bank senior relationship manager was nominated to Captain the Vanuatu Rugby 7s side in the 1999 Pacific Games in Guam which consisted of other players such as Pastor Billy Taiwia, Brian Fong, Rayndol Ala and Albert Frank.
Following a semi finals loss to mighty Fiji in a tough contest Vanuatu met neighboring Solomon Islands who lost the other semifinals to PNG.
The bronze medal match started off with a very physical contest by both teams which saw them tied with a try each by half time. Vanuatu came out strong in the second half and crossed the Solomon Islands try line three times to claim the first rugby medal for Vanuatu at a Pacific Games in 7s since 1966 when the full 15s version was contested at the games.
The younger brother of present-day Minister of Lands Ralph Regenvanu also captained Vanuatu in 2001 in the countries first two international rugby board [IRB] test matches at Korman stadium. Police Commissioner, Albert Nalpini was also a member of the national team.
Nowadays, the country Manager of the Bank of the South Pacific says while laughing, “I am a former rugby player with a lot of injuries”.
The bench setter believes that Vanuatu has the potential to repeat his team’s success or win silver or gold. Looking at how Kenya is successful on the international 7’s circuit, he mentions that Ni Vanuatu are built similarly to Kenyans and can easily walk in their footsteps to success but once again it all comes down to good organization.
Looking into the future our bronze medal winner hopes to see a stronger domestic competition and a strong administration to drive us forward.