Naqelevuki targets play-off spot
July 13, 2011
Naqelevuki finished the 2010-11 campaign with five tries and will hope to build on his tally in the 2011-12 season © Getty Images
The Exeter Chiefs' Fijian centre Sireli Naqelevuki has backed his side to improve on their impressive debut season in the Aviva Premiership and push on for a semi-final berth in the new campaign.
Naqelevuki arrived at Sandy Park after the 2010-11 season had begun and although he started on the wing, head coach Rob Baxter soon saw him as being more effective elsewhere on the pitch and switched the Suva-born back into the centre. This proved to be a tactical masterstroke as he went onto score five tries in 18 appearances.
The seven-cap Fijian is now hoping to build on his successful debut campaign and reap the benefits of a full pre-season. "It's good to be here at this stage," said Naqelevuki. "I know it's going to be a lot of hard work, but I am sure we will have some fun as well. It's good to see the boys working hard - to have a good season you know you have to work hard in the off season and that is what we are doing. It's looking good so far.
"Last season was enjoyable for all of us. I had some good times and it was nice to finish our first season in eighth place. It was a good test for all of us in the first year, but hopefully we can go one step up further this year and maybe try and qualify for the semi-finals. It is always good to push yourself and set targets like that."
Naqelevuki will be joined at Sandy Park by several new faces, including former Bath lock Peter Short and Argentina international Gonzalo Camacho, and commented that it is "good to have the new boys in town." The former Stormers back admits he is still adjusting to the physicality of the Premiership but hopes to build on the happy memories from the 2010-11 season.
"There were lots of good memories, but winning against teams like Saracens, Northampton and Harlequins was especially good. I also thought my game came on a lot, I was adding new things all the time," Naqelevuki said. "English rugby was a lot different to what I was playing with the Stormers, it is a lot more physical at the breakdown, but it is good to have that kind of competition. It makes you go harder at every ruck."
First up for Naqelevuki and the Chiefs in their pre-season campaign will be the forthcoming trip to face Irish side Connacht on August 13. After they finish their warm-up matches, the Chiefs face a difficult opening test in the 2011-12 season, playing last year's losing finalists Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on September 2.
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