Moana Pasifika ready to unleash new combinations

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Most interest will centre on halfback Jonathan Taumateine and first five-eighths Christian Leali'ifano. They came off the bench for the latter stages of the side's only game against the Crusaders, where Ereatara Enari and Lincoln McClutchie started.


"JT and Christian both made an impact, especially with the ball in hand later in the game. JT made a break through the middle of the field, and what Christian sees out on the field gives us the ability to play to where the space is. They've both been outstanding, and they deserve their start.


"It was always the plan to get them started in the first couple of rounds. We're not fully settled. We don't know because only one combination has had a crack at the start. So it's healthy competition that will sort itself out later through the year.


Mauger said news the side was heading home to play the game was the most welcome news they had had in their campaign.


Given they are the side most affected by postponements, it was satisfying to be able to have a game on Saturday.


"The last few weeks have given us an opportunity to learn from the Crusaders' game, and it didn't matter who we were going to play this week. The focus has been on ourselves. We're up against a good Chiefs side. They've been impressive in these first few rounds.


"We respect the challenge is coming but the focus has been on our game," he said.

The two sides played each other in the pre-season. Mauger said they were both different teams, and Moana Pasifika was 'hugely different'.


"We've had a lot of time to settle our combinations, and find our cohesion in our training. The intensity has got up, and as a team, we're a lot more mature for the experience we've just been through.


"A lot of our individuals have started to grow and understand what it takes to prepare and perform at this level so we're excited to have another crack tomorrow and give it another test," he said.


Mauger said players who suffered Covid were managed carefully through return-to-training guidelines.


"Some guys were fine straight away, and some guys took a little longer to adapt. One of our players, who was one of the fittest guys in the team, found it hard on the first day back, and he took four or five days to get back to some decent running intensity.


"It has hit everybody a little bit differently. The main thing is we are all healthy at the moment," he said.


Midfielder Levi Aumua said the side had maintained their preparation along the lines that there was a game to play.


It had been frustrating preparing to play and then learning games were called off, but there was also a realisation that this could happen in the Covid world.


"Having a game this weekend really puts a smile on our faces," he said.


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