A new wave of Moana Pasifika talent is set to light up DHL Super Rugby Pacific in 2024. Twenty newly contracted players headline the 38-man squad. The team boasts 19 players that featured at Rugby World Cup 2023 and eleven Super Rugby debutants.
Head Coach Fa’alogo Tana Umaga begins his tenure at Moana Pasifika with a squad refresh and is excited by the new opportunity to lead a youthful team. “The talent in our Pasifika community is aplenty and it certainly was a tough task selecting this team, but I am confident that we have a strong mix of youth and experience to complement the brand of rugby we want to play.”
“The development of the team in a highly competitive Super Rugby Pacific competition will be testing, but I look forward to the hard work ahead of us” says Umaga.
The Moana Pasifika forward pack has seen the most change from previous seasons, with 13 new faces in the sheds.
Otago’s bruising loosehead prop Abraham Pole returns for his third season with Moana Pasifika. He joins other returnees in ‘Ikale Tahi international Samiuela Moli and Counties Manukau Steelers standout Suetena Asomua, who picks up his first full-time contract after joining Moana Pasifika as a replacement in previous seasons. Also returning is 110 test Wallaby Sekope Kepu.
Disembarking from the Blues after three seasons, James Lay is a new addition to the front row. A force at set piece, Lay has the ability to play on either side of the scrum. New South Wales Warratahs Prop Sateki Latu also makes the move to Moana Pasifika.
Another welcomed addition to the front row is Manu Samoa international Sama Malolo. A standout performer for his nation in France, the Auckland Grammar Old Boy returns to New Zealand after stints with the San Diego Legion and Utah Warriors.
Other front row additions include exciting young Junior Wallabies hooker Tomasi Maka and Taranaki 2023 Bunnings NPC prop and Manu Samoa International Donald Brighouse.
Towering lock Samuel Slade enters his third season of Super Rugby and is a key piece in Moana Pasifika’s tight five. Slade will join new signees Tom Savage, Ofa Tauetavalu, Irie Papuni, and Villiame Napa’a in the second row. Standing at 1.97 meters, Savage adds much needed height at set piece. The former Gloucester Rugby Captain has 179 club caps to his name.
Super Rugby Champion Crusader Sione Havili Talitui joins the team fresh off the back of a stellar Rugby World Cup campaign with the ‘Ikale Tahi. He was awarded top tackler throughout the pool stages.
Returning to the squad are Moana Pasifika enforcers Solomone Funaki and Alamanda Motuga. The respected pair have been fan favourites over the past two seasons and have both been awarded the La’auli Savae Sir Michael Jones Forward of the Year on separate occasions.
Also providing spark in the back row are fellow loose forwards Miracle Faiilagi, Lotu Inisi, and the newly signed Tongan duo of Semisi Paea and Ola Tauelangi. The competition in the loose forward trio will be high with such strong candidates in the squad.
Fa’alogo Tana Umaga and new Attack Coach Stephen Jones will be instrumental in unlocking the star power in the Moana Pasifika backline.
Manu Samoa teammates Jonathan Taumateine and Ereatara Enari have been integral to the on and off-field identity of Moana Pasifika. The pair of halfbacks are amongst the most experienced in the squad and will be influential facilitators for their teams back line. Super Rugby Rookie Aisea Halo will join them to complete the halfback trio.
‘Ikale Tahi international William Havili has been a consistent starter for Moana Pasifika in the team’s first two seasons. Returning alongside him to cover the first five eighths position is dual-international Christian Lealiifano. The 36-year-old has proven his redefined game remains at the highest standard and is preparing for another historic year in 2024.
Versatility and power make up the Moana Pasifika mid-field options for 2024. Manu Samoa internationals Henry Taefu & D’angelo Leuila return for another season, with electric ‘Ikale Tahi centre/wing Fine Inisi. Joining Moana Pasifika are NPC-standouts and exhilarating prospects Lalomilo Lalomilo and Pepesana Patafilo. The pair from Bay of Plenty and Wellington respectively are established names on the regional scene and are welcome additions to the Super Rugby side.
The Moana Pasifika wing prospects are headlined by prolific try scorer and All Black #1111 Julian Savea, who is now eligible to play for the Manu Samoa. Alongside Savea is Manu Samoa winger Nigel Ah Wong who won a Moana Pasifika cap in 2022 as a replacement player. Incumbent Moana Pasifika wingers Neria Fomai and Anzelo Tuitavuki will also provide great mentorship for the new signee Villiame Fine, a budding rookiecoming off an outstanding 2023 Bunnings NPC season with the Southland Stags.
A solid addition who fits the mold of playmaker and utility is Tonga’s Otumaka Mausia, giving Moana Pasifika options at both 10 and 15. Also known for his ability to play anywhere in the backline, Danny Toala returns for his third season.
Moana Pasifika begin their 2024 Super Rugby Pacific campaign at Forsyth Bar Stadium on February 24thwhere they will face a revamped Highlanders outfit. The following week will see the squad travel to Melbourne for the ‘Battle of the Pacific’ to be held for Super Rugby Pacific’s ‘Super Round’.
MOANA PASIFIKA FULL SQUAD
James Lay* – Sasina & Safotu (Samoa)
Abraham Pole – Lapaha, Fua’amotu (Tongatapu). Funga Fonua (‘Eua) & Ha’apai (Tonga)
Sateki Latu* – Tongoleleka (Ha’apai) & Falevai, Kolofo’ou (Tonga)
Samiuela Moli – Te’ekiu (Tongatapu) & Leimatu’a (Vava’u) (Tonga)
Sama Malolo* – Siusega & Salelologa (Samoa)
Tomasi Maka* – Longoteme & Holopeka (Ha’apai) (Tonga)
Donald Brighthouse*-Falelatai, Saleimoa (Samoa)
Sekope Kepu – Leimatu’a (Vava’u) & Niuafo’ou (Tonga)
Suetena Asomua – Lufilufi, Nofoali’i, & Falelatai (Samoa)
Samuel Slade – Sapunaoa, Vailoa & Palauli (Samoa)
Tom Savage*- Havering (England)
Ofa Tauetavalu*- Pangaimotu (Vava’u) (Tonga)
Irie Papuni* – Kolomotu’a & Ha’ateiho (Tongatapu) (Tonga)
Viliame Napa’a*- Home (Tongatapu) (Tonga)
Miracle Faiilagi – Vailele & Uafato (Samoa)
Ola Tauelangi*- Vaini (Tongatapu) (Tonga)
Alamanda Motuga – Sataoa & Sa’anapu (Samoa)
Solomone Funaki – Fanga-‘o-Pilolevu (Tongatapu) & Pangai (Ha’apai) (Tonga)
Semisi Paea*- Falaleu (Vava’u), Houmakelikao (Tongatapu) (Tonga)
Sione Havili Talitui* – Pangai, Nomuka (Ha’apai) Tofoa (Tongatapu) Niuafo’ou (Tonga)
Lotu Inisi – Longoteme (Tongatapu) & Fangale’ounga (Ha’apai) (Tonga). Falelatai (Samoa)
Jonathan Taumateine – Nofoali’i & Satapuala (Samoa)
Ereatara Enari – Nofoali’i & Vaiala (Samoa) & Rongowhakaata & Te Aitanga A Māhaka (Aotearoa)
Aisea Halo*- Puke, Lakepa (Tonga Tapu), Leimatua, Ta’anea (Vava’u), Fatai, Koulo, Holopeka (Ha’apai) (Tonga)
William Havili – Sopu, Kolomatu’a (Tonga)
Christian Lealiifano – Magiagi, Letogo & Le’auva’a (Samoa)
Lalomilo Lalomilo*- Falefa, Sinamoga, Safotu, Salailua (Samoa)
Henry Taefu – Samatau & Falelatai (Samoa)
D’angelo Leuila – Gataivai & Fagali’i (Samoa)
Pepesana Patafilo* – Magiagi & Vailima (Samoa)
Fine Inisi – Longoteme (Tongatapu) & Fangale’ounga (Ha’apai) (Tonga). Falelatai (Samoa)
Neria Fomai – Lepuia’i Manono Tai & Magiagi (Samoa)
Anzelo Tuitavuki – Angaha (‘Eua) Kolomotu’a, Falaleu (Vava’u) & Niuafo’ou (Tongatapu) (Tonga)
Viliame Fine*- Fua’amotu, Pelehake (Tongatapu), Noapapu (Vava’u), Faleloa (Ha’apai)
Nigel Ah Wong – Alafua & Vaiusu (Samoa)
Julian Savea* – Siumu, Luatuanu’u & Falesiu Uta (Samoa)
Danny Toala – Faleasi’u & Lotofaga (Samoa)
Otumaka Mausia*- Ha’ateiho (Tongatapu) Longomapu (Vava’u) (Tonga)
*Denotes New Player
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