In a beautiful symmetry for the Fijian Drua, the 2023 season began with the Crusaders and it shall end or endure with the Crusaders.

In only the Fijian’s second year in Super Rugby Pacific, they will play their first finals match against defending champions in Christchurch.

A hint the Drua might be capable of something truly special this year began when they stunned the Crusaders in a round 3 upset.

It was a dramatic battle in Lautoka, which the Drua won by a single point, and a loss that will be front of mind for Christchurch powerhouse.

The 25-24 victory for the Drua — who had only two wins in their inaugural season — was a pivotal moment for Super Rugby Pacific.

It garnered an international outpouring of love and support for not just the team, but for Fiji.

Their victory over the Crusaders also set the stage for what would become a theme for the Fijians this year; they’re really, really good a winning home games.

The Drua’s home wins include the Hurricanes, Reds, Melbourne Rebels and Moana Pasifika.

Drua coach Mick Byrne believes his team are already in finals mode, having won their last two do-or-die matches to make the knock-out stage.

The Aussie, who is a former assistant coach to the Wallabies and All Blacks took the helm of the Drua this year.

Dogged and resilient, Byrne is taking the Drua to the play-offs while grieving his father, who died last week.

Celebrated Fijian Drua head coach Mick Byrne will enter the team’s critical finals match while also grieving his father who died just last week.()

Under Byrne, the Drua have won six matches this season.

“What this team has learnt and how good they have become over the last two years is a credit to them,” he said.

In a move that’s raised eyebrows from Drua fans on social media, Byrne has shaken up the starting side who destroyed the Reds last week in Suva, 41-17.

A reshuffled back row sees young gun captain of the Fiji under-20 Motikai Murray move into the number 7 jersey.

Vilive Miramira will replace flanker Joseva Tamani who sustained a knee injury last weekend.

Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta will swap out Leone Rotuisolia to pair up with Isoa Nasilasila at lock.

In the backline star playmaker Selestino Ravutaumada will revert to the wing, and Ilaisa Droasese moves to fullback.

In a stroke of luck for the Drua, Crusaders veteran Sam Whitelock has been ruled out with a persistent Achilles injury.

No matter what the outcome, 2023 will go down in history as a success for the Fijian Drua.

They’ve proven a Pacific island-based team can thrive in an Australian or New Zealand competition, and inspire not only Fijians but the Pasifika diaspora all over the world.