Prophetic Words Propel a Rugby Team to Championship
Tevita Koloi, an experienced rugby trainer, is a chaplain to elite athletes internationally.
It’s the start of yet another season. The quiet of the night contrasts with the vibrant group gathered in the upper room of their local church, fervently praying. As the clock ticks closer towards midnight, the spiritual coach of the state’s professional rugby team receives an impression from God – “the last placed team he is mentoring will win the entire league this very year”.
It is a bold revelation, and he grapples with what to do with this.
Tevita Koloi has been involved in the rugby world for years – his earnest demeanor and motivating pep talks are marks of a great trainer and chaplain. He has served various professional teams in Tonga, New Zealand and Australia. The national rugby team of Tonga has also brought him to the sport’s grandest stage, the Rugby World Cup, as their “spiritual coach” and chaplain.
The year of this revelation was 2011, the same year that the city of Brisbane was hit by one of the biggest floods in its history. During that time, Tevita was serving as an unofficial chaplain for the Queensland Reds. This was the team that God told him was going to win the championship.
The problem was this – the Reds had finished in last place the year before, and second to the last the year prior to that. In fact, the team had not won a championship in about twenty years. It seemed ludicrous to suggest that this same team was suddenly going to win a championship.
“My role on the team was to send encouraging texts and mini-sermons a few times a week to all the players,” he relates. “I struggled for a long time before telling the coach that the Lord had spoken to me – that we were going to win the championship.” In short, he would be risking all of his credibility with this one message.
Tevita felt strongly that he needed to let the coach and players know. He went to his pastor seeking counsel. His pastor advised him to keep praying, to wait for the Lord to give him the right time.
Finally, after four uninspiring games to start the season, Tevita knew it was time and got up the nerve to tell the coach, “God has shown me that we will win the championship this year.” He then contacted the players and gave them the same message.
It was a crazy thing to say to a team that was expected to finish in last place. Everyone thought it was impossible, and for good reason.
The Impossible Starts to Happen
The rain was pouring, with no respite in sight. It was game day for the Reds. Since Tevita had released the word, the Reds had been on a run and were playing well. Today they had a vital clash with one of the best teams in the league – the NSW Waratahs. The Reds needed to win to advance to the league’s quarterfinals and keep their hopes of a championship alive. If the rain didn’t stop, it would severely hamper their efforts to get a much needed win.
In the lead up to the scheduled kick-off, the Reds’ coach came up to Tevita and innocently asked him, “Tevita, can you please pray for the rain to stop? Is there any way that God can stop the rain?” Tevita thought to himself, “If He can save my life, I’m sure He can stop the rain.”
But the torrents started coming even harder, and he started to think it might even flood. Tevita quietly prayed, “God, please – if you want these people to believe in you, do something!”
“If God can save my life, I’m sure He can stop the rain.”
He couldn’t help but think that God may work a miracle, as a sign to the Reds of what He was doing in their midst. He asked one of his prayer partners, Joe (whom he calls the “midnight prayer guy”) to go with him to the game, just to sit down and pray that the rain would stop.
Tevita was on his way out the door with an umbrella in hand, when Joe stopped him, “Why are you bringing an umbrella? Put it down. If we really believe God is going to do a miracle, who needs an umbrella?!” They ended up soaked as they headed to the stadium and sat down.
As they sat there, damp, shivering and praying, the teams came out onto the field to get ready. Just as the ball was kicked off to start the game, the rain stopped! Tevita could hardly believe it: it actually seemed like it had never rained that entire day.
The Reds won the game, and Tevita considered it a miracle. They were playing against one of the best teams in the world whom they hadn’t beaten in ten years. Nobody could believe the outcome, but Tevita knew the miracle that day had actually started when the rain ceased.
Holy Momentum and a Championship Game
“Turn on the television,” Tevita heard the Lord speak to him. “Turn on the television? Is that really from God?” Tevita thought. It sure was a strange impression – Tevita was beginning his day in prayer, and as he did on every game day, he was asking the Lord for a message for the team. He didn’t expect God to tell him to turn on the TV during his prayer time!
Today wasn’t just any other game day. This was the morning of the Super Rugby Finals. Against all odds, the Reds had made it to the championship game. As Tevita obeyed the Lord and turned on the television, he came across a message from Hillsong pastor Brian Houston. Brian was sharing from Exodus 1 on the topic of holy momentum – Tevita realized this was the message that God wanted him to share with his team.
Armed with that message, he went to the coach, who was clearly very nervous. He had never won a Super Rugby championship before. “God said to me this morning that the momentum God has started, no man will stop,” Tevita declared. “He has given us victory after victory, and it will continue today!”
“God said to me this morning that the momentum God has started, no man will stop. He has given us victory after victory, and it will continue today!”
The coach responded, “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Tevita replied. “Just trust the Lord and see.”
Tevita and the rugby team then prayed in faith and through tears, laid hands on the coach, and went to the stadium.
At the stadium, it literally felt as if everything was against them. Their opponents were the mighty Canterbury Crusaders who had won the championship 7 times. They had played in the final game 10 times in just the last 14 years, while this was the first time for the Reds! Tevita describes it as being in a David and Goliath challenge – the Crusaders were heavy favorites in every way.
When the game started, the Crusaders jumped out to an early advantage, holding possession and controlling the game. However, the Reds were only down by a score of 7-6 at halftime, as they were able to keep their opponents from capitalizing on their advantage.
The second half started much as the first did, and the Crusaders eventually took a 10-6 lead. Still, Tevita and the Reds continued believing for a miracle, and their players kept working hard. They finally took a 13-10 lead, before the Crusaders tied them at 13.
10 minutes left in the game. What would happen? The Reds made a triumphant surge down the field… and scored! They took an 18-13 lead that they would never relinquish. The Reds had bested the mighty Crusaders, and as the crowd of 52,113 rejoiced, Tevita knew the real reason for this championship – holy momentum had been on the Reds’ side. More than winning a rugby championship, players and coaches on the Reds had experienced the goodness of God and been drawn closer to Him.
Obedience Always Leads to Fruit
Tevita continued to experience the hand of God in the world of rugby after the 2011 championship. In 2015, he decided to go the Rugby World Cup in England at his own capacity.
“I didn’t have any money, but God provided at the last minute, the day before I was scheduled to leave,” he shares with a chuckle. “God gave me a date to leave, 6th October, and the money came on the 5th. When I left, I wasn’t too sure why I was going – I wasn’t an official chaplain or trainer of any of the teams that year. But I knew God would tell why He wanted me to go once I arrived.”
Sure enough, upon arriving at the World Cup, he felt God telling him to start a prayer meeting for the All Blacks (from New Zealand) and one for the Wallabies (from Australia). These were two of the best teams in the world and had many superstars between them, but they were also fierce rivals! Would the players attend a prayer meeting, if they knew the man hosting the meeting was also praying with their opponent? The teams were planning on attacking each other, not praying together!
Still, Tevita obeyed the Lord and started the prayer meetings. Despite the issues the players may have had with their rivals, more and more of them started to come. Although some of these tough, seasoned warriors may not have been used to it, they would gather together, hold hands, and pray.
These prayer meetings lasted throughout the World Cup, and many of the athletes experienced transformation in their lives. Legendary All Blacks player Jerome Kaino, considered one of the best forwards in the world, actually gave his life to the Lord during one of these prayer times! What had seemed like a crazy idea – starting a prayer meetings with two teams at odds with each other in the middle of the World Cup – ended up producing amazing fruit.
For Tevita, it doesn’t matter what your background is or who you are. His desire is to see these men find their purpose in Christ, not in the world or in rugby. When they find that, they will run towards the destiny that God has in store for their lives.
Check back next week for part 2 of Tevita’s story – find out how a text message changed his life. He now uses text messages to change the lives of others!