20 October, 2022
Lance Corporal Mary Kanace and Second Lieutenant Jokaveti Waqanivalu are members of the New Zealand Defence Force team competing in the inaugural women’s International Defence Rugby Competition.
Lance Corporal Kanace’s family moved from Fiji to Manawatū before she was born. Several years later Second Lieutenant Waqanivalu and her family also moved to New Zealand where they based themselves in South Auckland, but the relations had lost touch.
In a moment of serendipity, both women ended up enlisting in the Army and attending the same basic training course in 2015.
On the day the pair embarked on the course their families gathered for the farewell - a moment that led to their reconnection and forged a special bond between the two soldiers.
Second Lieutenant Waqanivalu said she feels lucky to have connected with her distant relations and to have a home away from home in Manawatū while she is posted to Linton Military Camp.
“When I go home Mary’s sisters are my sisters, and her mum is my mum,” Second Lieutenant Waqanivalu said.
She said she can feel the bond between her and cousin Lance Corporal Kanace when they’re playing rugby.
“We know where each other are going to be on the field, without having to train for it.”
The pair are hoping to play Fiji in the upcoming finals of the competition as they know a few of the players from their home country.
The two soldiers said those bonds won’t dampen their competitive spirit.
“There’s an extra sort of rivalry. You play hard every game, but you play a little harder when you are going up against your home country,” Second Lieutenant Waqanivalu said.
The soldiers joked that their families might show more support for the Fijian team if both sides make it to the finals.
“I think sometimes mum wishes I was playing for Fiji,” Lance Corporal Kanace said.
As they compete side-by-side, they both know their families are proud to be cheering them on together.
“When we all get together, it’s like no time’s been lost,” Second Lieutenant Waqanivalu said.
The women’s International Defence Rugby Competition finals are taking place on Tuesday 25 October at the College Rifles Club in Remuera, Auckland.
Find match information and watch the livestream or replay games on our website: nzdf.mil.nz/idrc
Keep up with event highlights through NZ Defence Force Sport on Facebook.