Cape Town - Fijian flyer, Meli Rokoua may have only been in South Africa for just over a week, but he has already been christened with a Xhosa name and is making great strides in building his Afrikaans vocabulary.
"Braai" is his new favourite word, and there was no better way to receive a welcome from his new teammates after his long anticipated arrival than a social gathering over a traditional South African barbeque for the Southern Kings’ latest arrival.
"I’ve had a couple of braais already, and it’s been great. There’s some good quality meat here," grinned the soft-spoken 24-year-old.
Born and raised in the city of Nadi, which is located on the western side of the main island of Viti Levu, Rokoua was schooled Nawaka District School for his primary schooling before heading to Ratu Navula College, also in Nadi, for his high school years.
In typical Fijian fashion, Sevens rugby is where he got his first taste of success and he made his mark to the extent that he was included in the 2015/16 Fiji Sevens squad. This was after he became one of the standout players for the Nadi Jets club.
Most recently, Rokoua has been plying his trade in Portugal where he has been a star player for Lisbon-based side, AIS Agronomia.
"I spent two good years over there. I really enjoyed playing my rugby there, it was a good two seasons in Portugal," Rokoua said of his time in Europe.
"The standard was good and the league proved to be competitive with some really good games."
While most of his senior career in Fiji was on the Sevens circuit, Rokoua hopes to follow in the footsteps of one of Nadi’s biggest rugby exports in the 15-man game – former Australian international Radike Samo, who hails from Rokoua’s hometown.
"In Fiji I played a lot of Sevens rugby. I played in various competitions around Fiji and it was really enjoyable. It was a great challenge. Now I’m looking forward to continuing with 15-man rugby here at the Isuzu Southern Kings. This is a big opportunity for me to showcase what I can do."
The Fijian has been following Guinness PRO14 rugby, and is looking forward to getting involved in a high-profile championship as the one the Isuzu Southern Kings are part of.
"I’ve been watching some PRO14 on television, and I can see that the standard is high. This is a big challenge I’m really looking forward to – to play some games in such a competitive competition," he said.
"But firstly, I just want to familiarise myself and adapt with the system that we have here at the Isuzu Southern Kings just to understand how the game is played here, the structure and once I fully understand all of those things, then I look forward to getting onto the field."
Rokoua’s new friends at his new team have given the Fijian a Xhosa name – Melikhaya. The name translates to "he who has the responsibility of standing up for and representing his home" – an apt description of the role that potentially awaits Rokoua in his new team. There has been an expectation from the Southern Kings supporters that the new recruit will represent the team with pride.
What exactly does Rokoua intend on bringing to the Southern Kings?
"I enjoy playing centre, particularly outside centre," said the versatile player who can also play on the wing (and has also played at flank in Portugal).
"I enjoying the attacking role, and I pride myself in my defensive work too. I really enjoy running with the ball and getting into contact."
Rokoua will be available for selection when the Southern Kings take on the Scarlets in a Guinness PRO14 Round 7 clash at Madibaz Stadium on Friday, October 26.