Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Moana Pasifika: Being present through the challenges

Photo: Moana Pasifika
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Photo: Moana Pasifika
Photo: Moana Pasifika
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

What was dubbed to be a historical season for Moana Pasifika, has turned into a roller coaster of events for the first timers.

As the competition heads into its fifth round this weekend, Moana Pasifika have only played one game, with three of their matches being postponed. The game against the Highlanders this week has also been postponed, due to Covid and has been replaced with their round 2 fixture against the Chiefs which is set to take place this weekend.

Still the only team to be left in Queenstown, Moana Pasifika believes that the key to being strong is to be present and deal with what is in front of them.

Moana flyhalf Christian Lealiifano says, “it’s been challenging for everyone and the team especially in these times. I guess the focus is to prepare like we are playing every week. Our focus is really just improving with the group we have here.”

Defence coach Dale MacLeod spoke about setting horizons and dealing with the issues day by day.

“The way the world is at, we just have to deal with what’s ahead of us and set our horizons. Our horizon is the next game, so play that and get through it and deal with it”.

Despite three of their matches being postponed, Moana will still have the chance to push through with these matches in a mid week schedule. This could mean the possibility of having two matches in a week for Moana Pasifika.

With these postponements also comes worrying factors for players in the squad. Lealiifano agreed on the issue of injuries and safety in regards to the intensity of the competition’s tight schedule.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for us to share the load within our whole squad, since we have only had 23 guys play. Exposure will be an important factor for all the players, but I know the coaches have got a good plan to structure with the tight schedule.”

“I think the more time we connect and train in our bubble and know ourselves on a deeper level, makes it enjoyable. Been good getting to connect and communicate with each other with our game plans and systems”, says Lealiifano.

Moana Pasifika plays Chiefs on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo: Moana Pasifika
Moana Pasifika plays Chiefs on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo: Moana Pasifika

The Moana vs Chiefs game will be the only game to play this weekend due to Covid affecting the other remaining New Zealand teams. In a statement released by NZR, Head of Tournaments and Competitions Cameron Good explained the reasoning for this.

“With three teams remaining, we had to look at what the best outcome for the competition was, especially ensuring Moana Pasifika got back on the field after having three matches postponed in the opening month of the season”

“Moana can now catch up on their previously postponed Round 2 match against the Chiefs”

Despite the twists and turns, MacLeod is grateful for the lessons they have learnt as a team and for him personally.

“Probably the biggest lesson is to not get stressed or worried about what you can’t control. We were the first group to suffer from Covid, and now we are seeing the other teams suffer from it”

“We are very sympathetic to them and what they are going through because we have been through. So worry about what we can control and to move forward”

Moana Pasifika plays Chiefs on Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium. They have made three changes to the team that played against Crusaders in round 3.

A new 9 and 10 combination will be on show with Jonathan Taumateine and Christian Lealiifano replacing Ereatara Enari and Lincoln McClutchie. Head coach Aaron Mauger understands that they might play three games in one week, hence the rotation of the 9 and 10 roles.

“We have strong and healthy competition at both 9 & 10 and all of these men are putting their hand up at training and leading the growth in our game. As a coaching group we thought that both Ere and Lincoln were really sharp against the Crusaders with JT and Christian both performing well off the bench.”

“Although we have had plenty of disruptions recently we felt it was important to stick to our original plan and give Christian and JT the opportunity to start this week, they have both proven they are up for that challenge and we know that Ere and Lincoln will give us what we need later on the game in any given circumstance.” says Mauger.

The forward pack remains unchanged with Sekope Kepu to take on the captaincy reins once again. All eyes will be on the midfield pairing of Danny Toala and Levi Aumua who thoroughly impressed in their hit out with the Crusaders. Tima Fainga’anuku, Neria Foma’i and William Havili will round off the back three yet again.

The bench makes up the third change with Hawkes Bay loose forward Josh Kaifa replacing Jack Lam.

Moana Pasifika Squad to play against Chiefs
Moana Pasifika Squad to play against Chiefs. Photo: Moana Pasifika

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