Waisale Serevi: How radio made the rugby star

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Fijian rugby idol Waisale Serevi is known as the "King of Sevens"

He played at three Rugby World Cups, but forged his reputation in sevens

During his 17-year career, he won the Hong Kong Sevens on seven occasions

He also led Fiji to two World Cup Sevens triumphs

CNN  — 

As a young child in Fiji, rugby star Waisale Serevi strained to hear tales of his heroes through the crackles of an old transistor radio.

Those radio waves carried stories of his idols across the seas into the ears of an enraptured Serevi.

It was the 1970s, before television arrived on the shores of the tiny island nation cast 1,700 miles off the east coast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean.

Although it has a population of just 870,000, Fiji’s obsession with the oval ball has helped it stand shoulder-to-shoulder with global superpowers.

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Rugby legend's love for Hong Kong
01:54 - Source: CNN

In Serevi, Fiji gave rugby a player blessed with such flare, flamboyance and outrageous natural talent, that on many an occasion David was able to stun Goliath.

“I started to get interested in rugby in 1977,” Serevi, who played 36 times for the Fiji’s Rugby Union team, told CNN.

“I was in my school uniform in Fiji, and then people were all happy and shouting and I asked my mum, ‘why are these people happy?’

“They said, ‘Oh Fiji has just beaten the British Lions, and rugby makes people in Fiji happy.’

“So, I thought, if I have an opportunity to play for Fiji, I’ll try and make people happy.”

Fiji’s famous win over the Lions came in the 15-a-side version of the sport but, while Serevi went on to become a member of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Hall of Fame and played at three Rugby World Cups, it was in the seven-a-side game that he excelled.

Sevens is a scaled-down, fast-pace version of rugby union that requires quickness of mind and body and bucket loads of stamina.

At his peak, Serevi possessed all three in spades, so much so that he was dubbed the “King of Sevens.”

If Serevi was the king, his royal residence was the Hong Kong Sevens – the most famous date on the HSBC Sevens World Series calendar and a tournament followed religiously in Fiji.

“It’s a big burden for the players,” said Serevi. “When they come to the Hong Kong Sevens, they have to win to make their name back home in Fiji.

“When Fiji wins the Hong Kong Sevens it’s a good 12 months for us until the next Hong Kong Sevens.

“But, when we lose the Hong Kong Sevens, it’s the worst 12 months. It’s always like ‘Oh no we have to wait for another year!’”

Gallery: New Zealand triumph in Hong Kong

Luckily for Serevi, he enjoyed a plethora of successes during his 17-year career, including seven tri