NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson acknowledged the heartache of losing both Vidiri and Va’inga Tuigamala this week.
“The last 24 hours have been incredibly difficult with the loss of two men who have such standing in rugby and in their communities.
“Joeli was a pioneer for Fijian rugby and set the platform for the many Fijian stars who have followed him. Together with Jonah Lomu at Counties Manukau they formed one of the most formidable partnerships we’ve seen, and his performances for the Blues helped put Super Rugby on the map.
“Tonight’s Super Rugby Pacific match will carry added significance as we honour the contributions of both Inga and Joeli to our game. The entire rugby community sends its aroha and thoughts to the families of Joeli and Inga.”
Fijian-born Vidiri emerged on the New Zealand rugby scene after settling in South Auckland, representing the Pukekohe club and Counties Manukau with pride. He was quickly recognised as an attacking force who became a fan-favourite for the Blues in Super Rugby, sparking Eden Park crowds into song with his pace and power. He went on to be part of two Super Rugby championship-winning Blues sides in 1996 and 1997.
Vidiri’s sublime performances led to national honours, debuting for the All Blacks in 1998 against England at his home ground in Auckland. His pace and attacking flair saw him included as part of the gold medal-winning All Blacks Sevens side at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.