With a four-day turnaround from their historic win against the Hurricanes on Friday night, Head Coach Aaron Mauger has elected to use the full depth of his squad.
“This is a great opportunity for our players making their debut to put their hand up. We have a lot of trust in our squad and these men have all been working incredibly hard,” says Mauger.
There are eleven players set to make their Moana Pasifika debut in the match day 23. Manu Samoa stalwart Jack Lam will become the first Samoan to Captain Moana Pasifika and will wear the number eight jersey. Experienced halfback Ereatara Enari will be Vice Captain for this fixture.
After playing for the Crusaders in Moana Pasifika’s first match, prop Abraham Pole will make his debut for Moana Pasifika as a permanent replacement for the season. Luteru Tolai returns to the starting line-up at hooker and Joe ‘Apikotoa gets his first start.
Tasman Mako lock Michael Curry and North Harbour’s Xavier Cowley-Tuioti are aligned to make their Super Rugby debut.
After sustaining an injury in the pre-season, Penitoa Finau has made a full recovery and will start at blindside flanker. Alamanda Motuga also returns to the team after sustaining a wrist injury against the Crusaders in Round 3.
Lincoln McClutchie starts at first five with Henry Taefu backing up his performance against the Hurricanes in the number 12 jersey. The ever-impressive Fine Inisi gets his first start for Moana Pasifika at centre.
There are debutants across the entire back three with Hawke’s Bay Magpies winger Anzelo Tuitavuki playing on the left wing and former Manu Samoa 7’s captain Tomasi Alosio on the right. Manu Samoa and championship-winning Waikato NPC utility back D’Angelo Leuila will direct the team from fullback.
On the bench, Counties Manukau Steelers prop and former Southland Stags prop Chris Apoua are hoping to gain their first cap for Moana Pasifika.
Former Blues and Hurricanes fullback Lolagi Visinia will debut from the bench after returning from a foot injury.
The much-anticipated return of former Warrior Solomone Kata to Mount Smart Stadium will come from the bench. Mauger is excited for the midfielder to get on the field after he sustained an injury in their pre-season game against the Gallagher Chiefs.
Coach Aaron Mauger says of Kata's of preparation for the game “Since we have come back from Queenstown, his level of preparation and training intensity has been outstanding, and he is demanding that of those around him. He is in a good space and ready to go.”
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Team to play the Blues on Tuesday 29 March, 7.05pm NZT at Mount Smart Stadium
1: Abraham Pole (debut)
2: Luteru Tolai
3: Joe ‘Apikotoa
4: Michael Curry (debut)
5: Xavier Cowley-Tuioti (debut)
6: Penitoa Finau (debut)
7: Alamanda Motuga
8: Jack Lam (C)
9: Ereatara Enari (VC)
10: Lincoln McClutchie
11: Anzelo Tuitavuki (debut)
12: Henry Taefu
13: Fine Inisi
14: Tomasi Alosio (debut)
15: D’Angelo Leuila (debut)
Reserves: Ray Niuia, Suetena Asomua (debut), Chris Apoua (debut), Alex McRobbie, Josh Kaifa, Manu Paea, Solomone Kata (debut), Lolagi Visinia (debut)