Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Aaron Mauger hopeful of a homecourt ‘miracle’ in clash with the Reds

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Historic Game in Samoa. Moana Pasifika vs Queensland Reds. Photo: Moana Pasifika FB
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

On the eve of Moana Pasifika’s historic match against the Reds in Samoa, coach Aaron Mauger is expecting fireworks come kickoff time.

However for young loose forward Miracle Fai’ilagi, the trip home is more than just a game for him.

Having been signed by Moana Pasifka straight out of Samoa at the start of the year, the youngster from Vailele has gone on to impress on the Super Rugby stage. Fai’ilagi has been a key asset in the team impressing not only rugby pundits but the coaching staff of Moana Pasifika.

“We had ten boys from Lakapi Samoa (Samoa Rugby Union) come and train with us,” says Mauger.

“They trained alongside the likes of Christian Leali’ifano or Levi Aumua. And that was Miracle about six months ago. Miracle welcomed the boys onto our training session,and it was significant given that he was in that position last year.”

Photos: Moana Pasifika

The trip to Samoa for Moana Pasifika is historic for many reasons, not only is it their first ‘home game’ of the season it’s also their way of giving back to the islands.

And the locals have gotten behind the team since their arrival last Sunday, parading the streets of Apia with Moana Pasifika flags and merchandise.

Coming off a close loss to defending champions Crusaders last Friday, the team are fizzing for this clash at Apia Park and the coach is hoping the home advantage will help boost the team to their first win of the season.

With their Pacific brothers Fijian Drua having won two home games so far in the season, Moana Pasifika will look to mirror their efforts tomorrow.

“There’s definitely going to be major uplifts for us,” Mauger says.

“The boys understand the significance of representing in front of our home crowd.”

Heading into the match, Moana has made changes to the side which pushed the Crusaders last week.

Photo: Moana Pasifika

The team have reshuffled their forward pack, with a strong presence in their loose trio. Niko Jones, son of All Blacks legend La’auli Sir Michael Jones will make a start alongside Fai’ilagi and team captain Solomone Funaki. Both Jones and Fai’ilagi will hope to impress in front of their families and friends.

In the backline, star performers Levi Aumua and Timoci Tamatamanawai will once again lace up in the starting line up, hoping to continue their good form this season. Both Aumua players are leading the stats in most defenders beaten for this season.
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.

“We’re going to have to be smart when we handle the ball,” Mauger added.

“It’ll be different to playing in New Zealand in terms of the conditions and we’re mindful of that. The ball is going to be slippery after 10 minutes with sweat, so we have to be smart in attacking through different areas of the field.”

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