Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

‘Lautoka is a graveyard for teams, we don’t want to be its next casualties’ – Moana Pasifika assistant coach Toaigaotumua Tom Coventry

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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

“It’ll be noisy, hot and slippery.”

That’s how Toaigaotumua Tom Coventry described what it’s like playing at Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji, ahead of the Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua clash this Saturday.

Toaigaotumua, who is the assistant coach for Moana Pasifika, is aware of the challenge posed by, not only Drua, but also their vocal home crowd.

The stadium is one of the two home bases for Drua, and has been beneficial for the club in terms of securing victories over the past two years. So for this season, they’ve had three wins and one loss in Fiji.

“Lautoka is really a graveyard for teams, we don’t want to be its next casualties,” Toaigaotumua says.

“They have an advantage with playing in Lautoka in the middle of the day in front of their crowd, but a win will really be important for us.”

As of now, both teams are tied at 13 points each on the table with Drua sitting above Moana at 7th place. Points differential is what’s keeping their Fijian opponents ahead of them.

The fixture has become a highly-anticipated matchup on the Super Rugby Pacific calendar. In three out of four meetings, the game has been decided by three points or less. 

However, coming off a bye week, Moana are relishing their chances of giving Drua their first ever loss in Lautoka and hope to go 2-0 against their Pacific brothers for this year.

“Obviously we have this big challenge and travel to Fiji, but the break has been good to us,” Toaigaotumua says. 

“It’s a big match for us, especially how we are tied on the table. So both teams will be gunning for the win”.

Making the top eight is a driver for the side, but they must take their chances with remaining games against the Highlanders in Nuku’alofa, the Chiefs (home), the Hurricanes, the Waratahs (home) and the Crusaders.

Toaigaotumua says achieving that would come down to being consistent in their play and disciplined with their ball handling.

“We talk about opportunities in rugby, and when you have chances to score, you need to take the points.

“So we’re after consistency, that’s the big one for us. We are starting to deliver that and we’re looking at these two games [Drua and Highlanders] as big, crucial matches for this part of the season…. they are probably season-defining for us.”

The same starting lineup that defeated the Reds in Round 8 will run out in Lautoka. 

The only changes are off the bench with Lotu Inisi making a return following a concussion against the Blues in Round 6.

Jonathan Taumateine and Neria Fomai also earned their first run of the season, both working their way back into the playing side after recovering from injuries.

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