Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Andrew Makalio and the Highlanders looking forward to important ‘culture round’

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Highlanders hooker Andrew Makalio
Avatar photo
Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

This weekend marks the culture round for the Super Rugby Pacific season. It is a celebration of the different cultures of the world present among the teams.

For Highlanders hooker Andrew Makalio, the cultural round is an important milestone for him.

Coming off last weekend’s 30 – 17 loss to the Western Force, Makalio will be looking for inspiration from his cultural upbringing to guide him and his team against the Waratahs this Friday.

“Culture is what has made me who I am,” Makalio says.

“Giving back is something that is big to me and my culture keeps me grounded.

“I always have to remember that it’s not just representing myself, but also my culture and Pacific islanders. So yeah, my culture has helped me grow a lot.”

A big part of Makalio’s Samoan culture is family, and it’s a concept he says that is often spoken about in the team.

“Family is one of the main things we drive in our team. It helps us and shows us the ‘why’ and why we are here playing this game,” he says.

Assistant coach Richard Whiffin also spoke about the importance of the round and how it can be valuable for the team in search of a win on Friday.

“It’s lovely to see it being incorporated in our team and it’s good to be able to experience it,” Whiffin says.

“The fact that the competition is celebrating the different cultures in the competition is a fantastic thing, and I’m looking forward to what that brings this weekend.”

The Western Force celebrate after beating the Highlanders. Photo: Getty

The disappointing loss to the Western Force last week was a reality check for Makalio and the Highlanders, who were beginning to find a winning flow within their camp.

After a winless start, the Highlanders added three wins and a loss to the Hurricanes before their loss to the Force. The team will be hoping to turn things around for this weekend’s cultural round.

Makalo described the season as “frustrating” and hopes to improve as a team for the Waratahs on Friday.

“We had some honest conversations after the loss to the Force,” he added.

“It’s just us knowing what went wrong and finding solutions for it. We’re missing a few key roles and also the little details of our games. It does not help too when we get too many penalties and yellow cards.”

And Whiffin is hoping the team puts its “best foot forward” against an eager Waratahs side.

“As drewzah (Makalio) said, we had some honest conversations, and I think we just didn’t give ourselves much opportunity. As a group, we know that we can get better.”

The Highlanders have a couple of key players returning for the round which will help boost team morale. All Blacks halfbacks Aaron Smith (bereavement leave) and Folau Fakatava (illness) are both set to be available.

In the meantime the Waratahs, who are also coming off a big loss to the Blues last weekend, will want a win against the Highlanders, with each match now becoming a must-win for the Australian giants. The game will be played on Friday in front of a Waratahs home crowd in Sydney, making the Highlanders’ job that much more difficult.

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