Both teams have shown their ability this season, this Round Eight clash of the Super Rugby Pacific competition will be a much desired win for both teams.
Last week, Moana Pasifika faced off against a well-grounded Crusaders outfit, and lead at half time 21-17. The Crusaders rallied in the second half with final a score line of 38-21 that didn’t reflect the back and forth, gritty contest that occurred at Orangetheory stadium. Moana Pasifika can head into their match against the Reds with great confidence from their game against the defending champs.
Head Coach Aaron Mauger has made a number of tactical and forced changes in the face injuries to key players to the side that will face the Reds.
Isi Tu’ungafasi will make his debut start for Moana Pasifika where he’ll line up alongside Ezekiel Lindenmuth (Manono, Vaimoso, Mo’otutua) and Samiuela Moli in the front row. Mike McKee comes into the second row, replacing the injured Samuel Slade, to form the locking duo with Michael Curry. Lindenmuth and Curry both grew up in Samoa and will be extra-motivated to bolster the tight five in front of their families and friends this Friday.
The signing of the season for Moana Pasifika comes in the form of blindside Miracle Faiilagi, who will no doubt be the crowd favourite in front of home fans. Hailing from the village of Vailele, Faiilagi played for his village club as well as the Lauli’i Lions before joining Moana Pasifika in December last year. Faiilagi will be joined in the loose forwards by captain Solomone Funaki, who has been the consistent leader for Moana Pasifika all season, and lining up for his 2023 debut, Niko Jones (Moata’a, Safune. Leone) comes in to the starting XV to complete the loose trio. Replacing the injured Alamanda Motuga who has been in exceptional form since being injected into the starting line-up, Jones has made a habit of rising to big occasions and will certainly make the most of his opportunity in the seven jersey.
The Moana Pasifika backline remains unchanged for the third week in a row, and are continuing to go from strength to strength each week. Head Coach Aaron Mauger has put a huge emphasis on the importance of the ‘navigators’ this week, saying that “we’re going to have to be really smart with how we manage the game, playing in the right parts of the field”, and that the 9, 10, 12 and 15 combination are going to be crucial to leading the team in Samoa’s conditions.
Halfback Ereatara Enari (Nofoali’i, Vaiala) is coming off one of his best games in a Moana Pasifika jersey and combines again with 1st 5 Lincoln McClutchie. Winger Neria Foma’i (Lepuia’i Manono Tai, Magiagi) and inside centre Danny Toala (Faleasi’u, Lotofaga) continue to be tenacious in their respective 11 and 12 jerseys, alongside fullback William Havili who is also coming off a career performance against the Crusaders last week.
Perhaps there is no stronger partnership than that of Levi Aumua (Afega, Safa’atoa Lefaga) and Timoci Tavatavanawai. Combining for 3 tries, 1 try assist, and an astonishing 11 defenders beaten against the Crusaders last week, these two have been instrumental in everything Moana Pasifika has been able to do, and will look to continue their devastating form in Samoa this week.
At 31 degrees Celsius, the men off the bench can expect to put in a big shift in what will definitely be blistering hot conditions. Suetena Asomua returns to the 23 as well as local player Potu Leavasa in the 18 and 19 jerseys respectively. Having represented both Samoa and Tonga, Sione Tu’ipulotu comes on to the bench to potentially make his 2023 debut.
Says Mauger “The boys understand the significance of representing in front of our home crowd”, and this game on Friday will definitely be a huge uplift for the players who know the crowd will be supporting with voice and heart.
Moana Pasifika v Reds
Friday 14th April
Apia Park Stadium
Gates open 3.30pm
Kick off 5:05pm Apia time (4.05pm NZT, 2.05pm AEST)
1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth
2 Samiuela Moli
3 Isi Tu’ungafasi
4 Michael Curry
5 Mike McKee
6 Miracle Faiilagi
7 Niko Jones
8 Solomone Funaki (c)
9 Ereatara Enari
10 Lincoln McClutchie
11 Neria Fomai
12 Danny Toala
13 Levi Aumua
14 Timoci Tavatavanawai
15 William Havili
Reserves: Luteru Tolai, Abraham Pole, Suetena Asomua, Potu Leavasa, Sione Tu’ipulotu, Manu Paea, D’Angelo Leuila, Fine Inisi