The NZR Board’s decision to make the licence unconditional comes three months after Moana Pasifika was granted a conditional licence, giving it the impetus to ramp up its planning and satisfy its financial obligations.
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said having the conditions of the licence removed marked another significant moment:
“Moana Pasifika can now formalise some key agreements with coaches, players and partners as they work toward taking the field alongside our Super Rugby clubs in next year’s professional competition.
“A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes and it will be exciting for everyone to watch developments in the coming weeks and months.”
Robinson said NZR was also working closely with the other conditional licence holder, the Fijian Drua, who were progressing well toward meeting the conditions of their licence – albeit the current COVID-19 situation in Fiji has complicated the final steps.
Rugby Australia (RA) and NZR continue to work together toward finalising the structure for next year’s Super Rugby tournament based on the inclusion of Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua in a 12-team competition.
Moana Pasifika Interim CEO Pelenato Sakalia said:
“We always anticipated it would take some time to formalise the arrangements and conditions we needed to progress, but we are now in a position to move forward again. Today’s announcement will no doubt generate another wave of excitement and enthusiasm about Moana Pasifika.”
Moana Pasifika took the field for the first time on 5 December last year when they played the Māori All Blacks in Hamilton and were granted a conditional licence to join next year’s professional competition on 14 April this year.
Fiji Rugby Union CEO John O'Connor said:
“We are encouraged by the progress we are making toward gaining an unconditional licence to compete in next year’s competition. Covid-19 has presented some obvious challenges, but we are confident we will be in a position to join Moana Pasifika in entering the final phase of planning for 2022 and beyond.”
Established in 2017, the Fijian Drua have already built a formidable reputation on the field after winning the Australian National Rugby Championship in 2018, in only their second year in the competition.
Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos said: “It’s really pleasing that the Moana Pasifika licence has been granted as we look forward to the 2022 season. We await positive news regarding the Fijiian Drua’s licence in the near future as we continue to progress discussions regarding the competition structure for next year.”