The LA Giltinis have added a dynamic dose of Fijian flair with today’s announcement that utility back Seru Vularika (black jersey) has been signed for two seasons, while Jonetani Vasurakuta (white jersey) has joined the Giltinis for 2021 from the Dallas Draft.
Vularika, 30, is a current member of the Flying Fijians team and can add to his 12 Test caps with the strong form he shows in Major League Rugby.
Playing attacking rugby is in Vularika’s blood and he shapes as a likely cult hero for his new Los Angeles-based club with his crowd-pleasing array of skills.
His elusive running, backhanded flick passes, fingertip handling and lust for big hits are a potent package when he can play inside centre and halfback and even fullback or wing.
Even though he has been playing Test rugby since 2016, this is Vularika’s first chance to develop in a full-time professional program.
“The opportunity with the Giltinis is exciting because this is the first time, for me, to get a professional contract overseas,” Vularika (above) said.
“Everything will be new to me…a new city, a new environment to learn a lot of stuff and new teammates.
“All I know of Los Angeles is that it’s a well-known place in the world and a lot of actors live there.”
The 5’6” (1.68m), 187lb (85kg) Vularika was born and raised in Suva, the capital of Fiji where rugby is the national sport.
Within five months of his Test debut in 2016, he realised just how far rugby could take him because he was playing halfback in front of 81,409 fans at Twickenham against the might of England.
Late last year, he played the final minutes off the bench at inside centre in Fiji’s rousing 38-24 win over Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup at Murrayfield in Scotland.
Vularika will bring a wealth of experience to the Giltinis. He played with the second-tier Fijian Drua team that won Australia’s National Rugby Championship in 2018 and he captained the Fijian Latui in their only game of Global Rapid Rugby in 2020 before COVID-19 cancelled the competition.
Vularika was a fireman for five years so he’s a grounded figure when it comes to the joy of now being able to play the game he loves professionally.
“I enjoy running the ball but also I like smashing them in defence because the physical contact of the game is for me,” Vularika said.
“I love rugby and being able to pass on skills to kids in the community in Los Angeles is something I really want to do.
“With all the top players at the Giltinis, I know I will be learning a lot.”
The Fijian flavour to the Giltinis expands the cosmopolitan blend of rugby talent that will ignite the club with American, Canadian, Australian, Irish, Scottish, New Zealand and South African influences on the playing roster. Off the field, head coach Darren Coleman (Australia), assistant coach Stephen Hoiles (Australia), skills coach Orene Ai’i (New Zealand) and scrum coach Alex Corbisiero (England) add to the upbeat league of nations vibe.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Seru and Jonetani and all they can add to the team.” Ai’i said.
“They are very explosive and have heady speed and skills.
“They are really unpredictable, they both have an eye for a gap and can throw that last-second pass so getting accustomed to how they play is important so we get the most from their exciting rugby.
Vasurakuta (below) joins the Giltinis following the Dallas Jackals pause from the 2021 season. He started playing rugby at six-years-old in his hometown village of Nakorovou, Fiji.
Following a promising junior career in Fiji, he went on to gain a scholarship to Timaru Boys High School in New Zealand. He continued his career with the Crusaders Knights U18 team and he also played for the South Canterbury U18 team.
Vasurakuta returned to Fiji and was recruited for the Fijian High Performance Unit Academy, which was named as part of the Fiji U20 extended squad. He also was selected for the Fiji Warriors side for the 2020 Pacific Challenge Cup. Recently, he played for Nadroga F.C. Senior team as the youngest player on the side.
Not only is the arrival of Vularika and Vasurakuta a boost for the depleted Giltinis and the Fijian community within Los Angeles, it is also a strong example of the work that has been done within World Rugby’s Pacific Island Player Placement Programme into the MLR.
“The arrival of Seru and Jonetani in LA comes through the incredible work of World Rugby’s Pacific Island Player Placement Programme, lead by Chris Thomson,” said Giltinis General Manager Adam Freier.
“In partnership with the Pacific Island Unions and the Pacific Rugby Players, the programme provides the opportunity for Pasifika players under this umbrella to accelerate their development across the globe in elite competitions and high performance environments”
“We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with the programme, it’s staff and players.”