At Mt Smart stadium the curtain raiser kicks off at 2.05pm with the Samoa women’s Manusina XV facing rivals Tonga Womens A followed at 4.35pm with the clash between Moana Pasifika and the Melbourne Rebels.
Moana Pasifika will wear its red and blue heritage jersey, which pays tribute to the impact of Samoan and Tongan Rugby on the Pacific region and the success they have enjoyed on the world stage. This jersey proudly proclaims its Pacific rugby heritage and highlights the importance of Polynesian culture to Pasifika Rugby. The influence of traditional designs is apparent in the tatau patterns that decorate the jersey's chest, shoulders, and sleeves.
The Melbourne Rebels take the name ‘Naarm Rebels’ inspired by their native aboriginal heritage, which also complements a redesign of the Club’s logo and jersey.
Coming off a historic game in Samoa two weeks ago, Moana Pasifika head into Round 10 at home, and despite tough Apia conditions, the players put on some of their best running rugby, and continued to show how devastating they can be at any time and from anywhere on the field. Continuing to improve every week, Moana Pasifika is looking to keep their foot on the throttle for the entire 80 as they come up against a Rebels team known for their physicality and x-factor.
Head Coach Aaron Mauger said, “We’re excited to be returning home and playing in front of our own loyal supporters at Mt Smart after a special visit to Samoa followed by the bye. Although we haven’t got the results we’ve been chasing on the scoreboard, there are still plenty of fight left in this team. Some parts of our game have been outstanding, and of the highest quality, attack wise we’re creating a lot of opportunities and have the quality to put teams away with ball in hand.”
“What we need this week is more resilience in our defence. We need our warrior spirit to shine brighter than ever before this week. That’s our challenge to work hard off the ball, tackle hard and repeat for 80 minutes. This area of our game hasn’t been good enough this season and has cost games we should’ve won, so Saturday is the perfect opportunity to get it right against a good Rebels team.”
Last week against the Crusaders, the Rebels put on one of their best performances of the year and were up 24-12 against the defending champs with just over 25 minutes to go. The Rebel's formidable 10, 12 and 13 combinations of Carter Gordon, Stacey Ili and Reece Hodge will match up fiercely against the Moana Pasifika backline as they bring a mix of strength, speed, and creativity.
Several new names come into the Moana Pasifika 23 this week, and Head Coach Aaron Mauger is happy to see the return of experienced players back from injury.
A new-look front row of Abraham Pole, Samiuela Moli and Isi Tu’ungafasi combine with the imposing locking duo of Michael Curry and Mike McKee to form the tight five. Returning to the starting line-up for the first time since Round 5, the young loosehead prop Pole will look to add his athleticism to a strong engine room as they face off against the Rebel's forward pack.
Blindside Miracle Faiilagi and captain Solomone Funaki have locked down their positions in the loose trio as they continue to prove themselves week in and week out. This week they will be joined in the starting trio by the hard-working Jonah Mau’u, who takes the place of open side flanker this outing, after starting at number 8 in his debut against the Drua earlier this season.
Coach Mauger continues to name the same consistent Moana Pasifika backline; however, the squad will be bolstered by the return of 1st Five Christian Lealiifano into the starting line-up. Having not played since Round 5, Lealiifano’s experience and composure will be much welcomed by the team. He’ll combine with halfback Ereatara Enari who has been showing some of his best form over the past few weeks. The two navigators will be looking to lead their team around the park and be the key to igniting the X-factor out wide.
The solid mid-field partnership of Danny Toala and Levi Aumua have formed a compatible combination of strength and skill and continues to be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.
The back three of Neria Foma’i, Timoci Tavatavanawai and William Havili have been at their destructive best, controlling the game with monstrous runs and being defensively sound at the back. These three will always be in search of work throughout the contest, and much of Moana Pasifika’s success this Saturday will be determined by how these three impact the game.
Off the bench, Ray Niuia and Chris Apoua return to the 23 and will join Ezekiel Lindenmuth as front row cover. The Moana set piece has slowly improved each week, and these three will play a big part in controlling the physicality in the final periods of the match.
Rounding out the forward cover, Alex McRobbie and Lotu Inisi return from shoulder and knee injuries respectively and will be immense additions to close the game.
With Lealiifano returning, the consummate Lincoln McClutchie shifts to the bench alongside the electrifying Fine Inisi.
“It’s great to have Christian back in the starting XV, as his experience and calmness under pressure are invaluable to our team. We’re also really pleased for Lincoln and his development, so he keeps a spot in the 23 and will provide quality cover from the bench this week,” says Mauger.
Making his 2023 debut after battling a persistent hamstring injury, halfback Jonathan Taumateine will suit up in the 21 jersey. The Manu Samoa representative has a wealth of experience playing with the Chiefs and Hurricanes and will be looking to make a statement in his first game for Moana Pasifika this year.
This Saturday promises to be an absolute spectacle of a game, as both teams have made it known this year that they aren’t afraid to chance their arm and back their attacking prowess.
The Rebels have put on some of the best games to watch and won’t disappoint coming up against the Moana Pasifika team. The afternoon of rugby kicks off at 2.05pm, as Moana Pasifika is honoured to host the two women’s rugby teams as part of our double-header for Culture Round. A special thanks to Lakapi Samoa and the Tonga Rugby Union for making this possible, and the doubleheader will be a clash not to be missed.
Fans are encouraged to bring their Pasifika flags and get along to support our women and men players this Saturday!
Saturday 29 April
Mt Smart Stadium
Gates open 1.45pm
Manusina XV v Tonga Womens A
Kick off 2:05pm NZT
Moana Pasifika v Naarm (Melbourne) Rebels
Kick off 4:35pm NZT
1. Abraham Pole
2. Samiuela Moli
3. Isi Tu’ungafasi
4. Michael Curry
5. Mike McKee
6. Miracle Faiilagi
7. Jonah Mau’u
8. Solomone Funaki (c)
9. Ereatara Enari
10. Christian Lealiifano
11. Neria Foma’i
12. Danny Toala
13. Levi Aumua
14. Timoci Tavatavanawai
15. William Havili
Reserves: 16. Ray Niuia 17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth 18. Chris Apoua 19. Alex McRobbie 20. Lotu Inisi 21. Jonathan Taumateine 22. Lincoln McClutchie 23. Fine Inisi