Moana Pasifika was finally able to name her first-ever team to play against the Crusaders after their Super Rugby Pacific first two round matches were postponed due to Covid-19.
Head coach Aaron Mauger recognizes the significance of the game and what it means for Pacific Island rugby.
Great moment in history
“It’s been 26 years and after the recent challenges, it’s good to finally be here,” he said. “For many it will be their debut and significantly they have the opportunity to get out there and compete, when an opportunity might not be available. It will be a very special occasion for them, their families and the wider Pacific community. »
The Crusaders have set the standard for the past 5 years but Mauger is delighted with the challenge they will bring to Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.
“We worked hard and prepared well in a short time,” he added. “Playing against the best team in the Super Rugby Pacific competition will be a good test to compare ourselves.”
The matchday squad includes 11 Super Rugby debutants but has plenty of Test match experience.
International powerhouse and Wallaby Test centurion Sekope Kepu will captain the team in his preferred tight-headed prop position. The anchor on the opposite side of the scrum is fellow Counties Manukau Steeler Ezekiel Lindenmuth, who left the Chiefs for the 2022 season.
Luteru Tolai completes the front row and will be looking to add to the 10 Super Rugby caps he won with last year’s Trans-Tasman title winners, the Blues.
Southland Stag stalwart Mike McKee will join Manu Samoa lock Samuel Slade to drive the engine room on their Super Rugby debut. Usually seen at flanker, Slade will be looking to bring some agility to Moana Pasifika’s lockdown stocks.
A back line with 11 international caps will complete the forward pack. Tonga flanker Solomone Funaki and Manu Samoa tough man Alamanda Motuga will play their first Super Rugby matches at six and seven respectively.
Samoan international and former Brumbies number eight Henry Time-Stowers also provides valuable experience in the back row.
Ereatara Enari has been named scrum-half against the team he has spent the past five years with. The 24-year-old made nine appearances for the Crusaders between 2017 and 2021 and has five Super Rugby titles in his trophy cabinet.
Hawke’s Bay Magpies fly-half Lincoln McClutchie will make his highly anticipated Super Rugby Pacific debut away from Enari. Nicknamed “The General”, McClutchie has five provincial rugby campaigns under his belt when he was only 22 years old.
Experienced campaigners Danny Toala and Levi Aumua will combine to form a successful midfield duo. Former Blues center Aumua returns to Super Rugby after three seasons in Japan and was in electrifying form for Tasman Mako in 2021.
Neria Fomai makes his mark on the left wing after an impressive display in the pre-season game against the Chiefs. On the opposite wing, Tima Fainga’anuku will add to his four Super Rugby appearances against the team that offered him his first Super Rugby contract. Fainga’anuku’s younger brother Leicester is also in the Crusaders squad.
Tasman utility fullback Mako William Havili, David’s younger brother, will play his first Super Rugby game at fullback.
A strategic replacement bench has been selected to make an impact in the latter stages of the game with Manu Samoa flanker Jack Lam at 35 Tests and Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano at 26 Tests both set for a return to Super Rugby.
Manu Samoa scrum-half Jonathan Taumateine and former Chiefs mainstay Joe Apikotoa also have Super Rugby experience on the bench.
Tonga hooker Samiuela Moli, Otago prop Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi, Counties Manukau Steelers lock Alex McRobbie and Ikale center Tahi Fine Inisi will all play their Super Rugby debut.
Moana Pasifika:15 William Havili, 14 Tima Fainga’anuku, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Neria Fomai, 10 Lincoln McClutchie, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Henry Time-Stowers, 7 Alamanda Motuga, 6 Solomone Funaki, 5 Samuel Slade, 4 Mike McKee, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Luteru Tolai 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth
Replacements:16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi, 18 Joe Apikotoa, 19 Alex McRobbie, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Christian Leali’ifano, 23 Fine Inisi
Dated: Friday March 4
Location: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
To start up: 7:05 p.m. local (06:05 GMT)
Arbitrator: James Doleman (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Fraser Hannon (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Hart (New Zealand)
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