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Williams: We can't afford star Qera.


PERTEMPS Bees' head coach Steve Williams is resigned to losing the services of ace Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera to a Premiership club next season.

Qera, 22, has proved one of the finds of the season so far but Williams knows that his pace and prolific try-scoring are already attracting the interest of other clubs in National One and some in the Premiership.

The Bees signed Qera on a bargain contract after he was recommended to them following his efforts in last summer's Sanyo Cup where he was capped against Tonga, Italy and Japan. His performances were given further recognition last week when Qera won Fiji's prestigious Player of the Year award at a ceremony in Suva.

Williams would like to retain Qera's services for another season but the former Wales lock accepts that the Bees are unlikely to be able to match the rival bids that will probably be tabled for him.

"We would love to keep Akapusi but we have to be realistic," Williams said. "We simply don't have the finances to compete with the offers that Akapusi will receive from other clubs.

"We were very fortunate to get him on the terms we did this year but he has justified everything that the agent who recommended him to us told us about him.

"He is one of the few Fijian forwards who have made it outside Fiji.

"Akapusi has shown that he can play over here and his Player of the Year award is recognition of that.

"Most other clubs in this league would love to sign him and most will be in a position to make him a better offer than we can.

"But I think that he is good enough to play in the Premiership and we will be trying to get him placed with a Premiership club for next season before his contract with us expires.

"If we can do that we can go to Fiji and say that we have played an important part in his development and hope that they recommend other talented players looking to play in England to us."

Qera, who has won five caps to date, beat favourite Kameli Ratuvou, the Saracens utility back, to the Player of the Year award which was collected on his behalf by his father Suliasi Sorovakatini, a former Fiji cricketer.

"It was a big surprise to win the award and a huge honour," Qera said. "My brother, Tiko Matawalu, also won an award for Player of the Tournament in the Sanyo Cup so my father was a very proud man."

Qera is due to return to Fiji in late March for World Cup trials before Fiji name their squad for next season's tournament in France, but the Bees hope to persuade the Fijian Rugby Union to allow him to stay in the Midlands until the end of the season.

"We know that Akapusi is due to go back for the first round of trials in March but we will be asking Fiji to allow him to stay with us," Williams said. "They have just voted him Player of the Year so they know all about him and he is better than the players who are based in Fiji.

"We shall be asking Fiji to allow him to stay with us until the end of the season to sort out a contract with a Premiership club for next season, and to have him back for i the next round of trials after our season has finished."


IN DEMAND: Bees' Akapusi Qera is the target of Premiership clubs
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2007
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