First time for Fiji Bati hymn in NZ

By Eru Paranihi

New Zealanders for the first time will get the chance to see the Fiji Bati pre-match hymn, in tonight's Rugby League World Cup final in Wellington.

Back in 2008, the Bati decided to ditch the Cibi war dance, in favour of the more powerful hymn and has since become popular with Rugby League fans.

Singing before going into battle may seem different, but this hymn is sung by many Fijian sports teams.

Fiji Bati Pastor Ilaitia Tagi says, “ In Fiji, it's very popular. To be honest with you, it's very popular. Because they do know the lyrics of the song. This is our prayer, love god coming to help us.

At the Rugby League World Cup in 2008, Tagi introduced the hymn to the team as he felt it was more relevant to their identity.

“First of all, the Fiji Bati team always performed what is called a Cibi. Compared to our Fiji Rugby Union team, they performed Cibi. We know they performed that to inspire people.”

From fans to supporters, this hymn is an important part of the people of Fiji. One former player has fond memories of performing it.

Former Fiji Bati and Kangaroos representative Petero Civonaceva says, “I guess for myself, it was probably one of the best experiences throughout my Rugby League career just being able to sing the anthem, to sing the hymn.”

The team is hoping that religion will give them a competitive advantage over tonight's opponents.

Says Tagi, “Fiji doesn't have the materials and the resources that tier one nations have. What we believe that is that the difference between us can be covered by the god whom we serve.”

It is not yet known if the Fiji Bati will return to New Zealand which may mean that tonight could be the only chance to see this unique pre-match challenge.