Moana Pasifika head to the nation’s capital for their second 2023 match against the Hurricanes at Sky Stadium this Saturday afternoon at 4.35pm.
The team continues to build after an exhilarating performance against the Blues in Round 11 that came with heartbreak when referee Graham Cooper blew the whistle in the 82nd minute to seal The Blues and 2022 grand finalists a win, 31-30. From demanding runs with conviction, to phases that reached 15 plus plays, Moana Pasifika backed themselves for the entire match and showed how dangerous they can be when firing on all cylinders.
In the Pacific, it was also heartbreak for the Hurricanes as the Fijian Drua took the win 27-24. Currently sitting at 5th on the table and 4 points behind 2nd place, the Hurricanes will be fired up to avenge last week’s loss and pick up as many points as they can as they close out the season with a tough home run schedule which includes the Chiefs, the Blues, and finally the Crusaders.
Of the last time these two teams faced each other in Round 5 at Mt Smart, where the Hurricanes picked up a 59-0 win, Head Coach Aaron Mauger says “The first game against the Hurricanes this year was a performance that hurt us, and it dented our pride. That feeling has not been forgotten and it has definitely fuelled the preparation for this week and the actions required on Saturday at the Hurricane’s home ground.”
Mauger has opted for a completely new side to take on the Hurricanes rotating the squad from the team that played the Blues. “I have no doubt this team will put in a big shift, perform well and apply pressure.”
“These players have been training just as hard and preparing the team each week with the same level of commitment as those who have been playing. This week is an opportunity for this group of men to embrace the challenge and express their skills and abilities,” says Mauger.
The selection process will allow national selectors of Manu Samoa and Ikale Tahi to have a wider view of Moana Pasifika’s players, with the goal to see at least 50% of the squad be selected for these two teams each year, and for players to have a positive impact on the performances of their Pacific national teams.
The front row massive hold and big impact play in set piece last week against the Blues in the second half from Ezekiel Lindenmuth and Luteru Tolai sees the two promoted to the starting line-up this week. Joined by Isi Tu’ungafasi, these three will have a big task ahead of them in the matchup with a Hurricanes forward pack renowned for their physicality and athleticism.
A new combination of Alex McRobbie and Mahonri Ngakuru join to form the second row, with Ngakuru returning to the side for the first time since Round 1. The two will have big shoes to fill in the form of Michael Curry and Mike McKee who have been influential members of the forward pack, McRobbie’s form over his last few games off the bench has deservedly earned him a spot in the number 4 jersey.
A new look loose trio has Sione Tu’ipulotu start in the 6 jersey for his start of the season, having also appeared against the Reds in Samoa from the bench. The 6 ft 5 utility brings a heap of experience to his side, with 11 appearances last year for Moana Pasifika, and will look to reintroduce his devastating running game at Sky Stadium this week.
Joining him on the open side and returning from a lingering foot injury is Penitoa Finau. Working relentlessly week in week out to rehab and work back to match fitness, Finau is full deserving of the starting 7 jersey and will be a huge presence around the breakdown.
Packing in at the back of the scrum is the imposing Lotu Inisi, who has been extremely impressive all season. The 24-year-old has all the measurables of the prototype number 8, with an outstanding running game that rivals his brother Fine. Look for these three to pick up right where the combination of Faiilagi, Motuga and Funaki have left off. These three are set to shine as they bring their style of leadership and physicality to the lineup.
Halfback Jonathan Taumateine will make his first start of the season against his former team after returning from from a hamstring injury two weeks ago. Taking over from the in-form Ereatara Enari, Taumateine is a live-wire off the bench and his fast paced and aggressive style has combined well with the damaging ball carriers Moana Pasifika possess inside and outside of him. He’ll combine with 1st 5 Lincoln McClutchie who will make his 5th start of the season and has been entrusted in the starting 10 jersey in which he’s performed well all season.
It’s a special occasion for Henry Taefu who is named at 12 this week and will lead the team out onto Sky Stadium as Captain. Moana Pasifika’s coaches have been impressed with his commitment to driving high standards within the team environment, having played a huge role in contributing to the growth of a young and new team. Expect an inspiring performance as he paves the way through his dominant defence.
Outside Taefu the consistent Danny Toala will suit up for the first time in the 13 jersey, showcasing again his versatility and adaptability to slot in at any position in the backline. Having come through the Hurricanes system by way of Hastings Boys, Toala is another player looking to make a statement against his former outfit.
Angelo Tuitavuki and Tima Fainga’anuku both get another opportunity on the wings this week and will relish the opportunity back in the starting lineup. Both wingers bring a strong presence to the end of the backline and will look to utilise their speed and strength to continue the work of Foma’i and Tavatavanawai who have both been instrumental in Moana Pasifika’s go forward this season.
At fullback and making his first appearance in 2023 is Wellington-bred Tomasi Alosio. The St Pat’s Silverstream alumn is an influential leader in the team and a patient worker behind the scenes who will be chomping at the bit to put on a performance back home.
Making his second appearance for Moana Pasifika, Joe Royal has been called in to cover injuries and family leave to Ray Niuia, Pita Anae Ah Sue, and Samiuela Moli. The Māori All Black brings a wealth of experience to his side and will cherish the opportunity to don the Moana Pasifika jersey for the first time in 2023.
Joining him in front row cover is the bouldering duo of Tau Koloamatangi and Chris Apoua, who’ll hope to emulate the monstrous performance of the second unit from last week.
Potu Leavasa returns to the bench for another opportunity in the Moana Pasifika jersey next to stand out Jonah Mau’u.
Manu Paea also returns with Moana Pasifika’s Man of the Match against the Blues D’Angelo Leuila who have both been impressive the driver seats this season.
Rounding out from the bench on debut in 2023 is Lolagi Visinia. The experienced winger is another X factor player who brings a heap of experience and will generate a major impact off the bench.
Moana Pasifika v Hurricanes
Saturday 13th May, kick off 4:35pm NZT
Sky Stadium, Wellington
1. Ezekiel Lindenmuth
2. Luteru Tolai
3. Isi Tu’ungafasi
4. Alex McRobbie
5. Mahonri Ngakura
6. Sione Tu’ipulotu
7. Penitoa Finau
8. Lotu Inisi
9. Jonathan Taumateine
10. Lincoln McClutchie
11. Anzelo Tuitavuki
12. Henry Taefu (c)
13. Danny Toala
14. Tima Fainga’anuku
15. Tomasi Alosio
16. Joe Royal
17. Tau Koloamatangi
18. Chris Apoua
19. Potu Leavasa
20. Jonah Mau’u
21. Manu Paea
22. D’Angelo Leuila
23. Lolagi Visinia
Unavailable due to injury: Sekope Kepu (achilles), Jack Lam (foot), Joe ‘Apikotoa (concussion), Pita Anae Ah Sue (concussion), Ray Niuia (concussion), Suetena Asomua (foot), Sam Slade (hamstring).See all news