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Moana Pasifika set for first game in Australia against the Rebels

Friday 29 April 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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Moana Pasifika set for first game in Australia against the Rebels
Aaron Mauger. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Moana Pasifika will kick off the Australian leg of their Super Rugby Pacific campaign against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night in Melbourne.

They come off the back of a 45 - 12 thrashing from the Waikato Chiefs two weeks ago and are currently at the bottom of the table with seven defeats and one win. That came a month ago against the Wellington Hurricanes (24 - 19).

Head Coach Aaron Mauger said in a press conference on Thursday his players had the quality to compete but the consistency was needed to sustain their performance.

"Our one-off is good. I think our one-off can match any side. It's the consistency and ability to do that over and over again for a whole game," said Mauger.

"We got enough x-factor on our side that you know, when we do those things well for long periods, we're going to find good space and they're going to create good opportunities," he added.

Saturday night would be the first time for Moana Pasifika to play an Australian side. They were originally scheduled to meet the Western Force in Perth last Friday but the game was postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.

"It's given an extra week for us to prepare for this game against the Rebels", said centre Henry Taefu.

"We'll be ready for the game. You know, we got on the plane expecting to play the Force... we just had to adapt quickly."

Moana Pasifika Alex McRobbie during the Super Rugby Paci?c match between Moana Pasifika and the Blues held at Mt Smart Stadium - Auckland - New Zealand  29  March  2022       Photo: Brett Phibbs / www.photosport.nz
Photo: PhotoSport / Brett Phibbs

Saturday night sees the return of Moana Pasifika captain Sekope Kepu, who has been out for the last two weeks due to a collar bone injury.

Moana Pasifika plagued by Covid-19 disruptions

No team in the Super Rugby competition has suffered more from Covid-19 disruptions than Moana Pasifika. The team was forced into self-isolation early on in the season for ten days after seven players tested positive for Covid-19.

Three of their fixtures have been postponed due to Covid-19, forcing Moana Pasifika to play midweek games. The team has had to play three games in six weeks, and Mauger has had to field 46 different players to accommodate the short turnaround in games.

"I think in a condensed programme, it can be quite tough, like we haven't been able to pick the same team, week in and week out," Mauger said.

"We just know how critical that cohesion of building combinations is to getting good outcomes and putting your best performances, and we haven't had the opportunity to do that

That's been certainly something that has affected our ability to be in winnable positions for three or four out of eight games so far. We'd just run out of juice or you know, combinations haven't quite been right," he said.

Despite the challenges, Mauger did not lament the misfortunes and praised Moana Pasifika's players and staff for pulling through.

"When you put yourself in those situations, all you can do is take a breath, sometimes have a bit of a laugh because it just seems to keep following us around," said Mauger.

"My biggest concern is player welfare and just making sure we get it right for our players. Our medical staff has done a great job just to be able to front the team and I put a team out there each week and their trainers have been mindful that the collaboration that's gone on is enough to front the team and celebrate 46 debuts from Moana Pasifika during that period."

"We're targeting this part of the competition to start building a bit of consistency in our selection and reward the guys who are performing at the top and I think we're going to benefit from that over the next few weeks won't be as many, many tweaks, selection wise."

Tomorrow's fixture between Moana Pasifika and the Melbourne Rebels kicks off at 9.45pm. The Melbourne Rebels enter the game with seven defeats and only two wins.