More home games 'would be awesome' says Moana Pasifika coach

The success of the Fijian Drua at home has made the Moana Pasifika quite envious.

This year the Drua have already played two home matches and won both, and they are due to play two more at home in the next month.

Moana Pasifika, on the other hand, had their first-ever local game on April 14 in Apia, Samoa, losing 40-28 to the Queensland Reds.

They are based this year at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.

A spokesperson for Moana Pasifika on asked if they were likely to more home games said: "We definitely would like to have more games in 2024 in our home nations and fixtures are still to be scheduled."

And in response to the same question a spokesperson for SANZAR told RNZ Pacific: "Super Rugby Pacific (the competition) does not dictate where teams play their matches. As part of our draw construction, teams submit their preferences for venues and we approve. Moana Pasifika only sought to have one match in Samoa in 2023."

The series is owned by the New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and Rugby Australia (RA), who have jointly established a nine-person board, which includes an independent Chair, four independent directors, and one representative each from NZR, RA, the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA), and the Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA).

The experience in Apia has pumped the team up, especially with the renewed energy knowing they have their fan base in the islands, eager to watch them in action.

The team spent a week in Apia, meeting fans, visiting schools and, for the Samoan boys, having time with their families.

Head coach Aaron Mauger is hopeful that more games in the islands can be given to them in the new year, in the islands where their players are from.

Moana Pasifika has players from Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

"Hopefully not too far away. It won't be this year but if we can get one or two more games here next year that would be awesome," the former All Blacks and Crusaders rep said.

"Ideally, if we go into Tonga as well and nice to get into the Cook Islands too.

"It will be nice to play all our home games in the Pacific. Not sure if that is feasible but that certainly is the long-term plan."

Local star Miracle Faiilangi said that possibility would be awesome.

He was with the Manu Samoa Rugby Academy just six months ago.

Against the Reds he scored two tries in front of around 15,000 fans and said the experience was a booster for the players.

"I don't know if anyone was left in the villages. They all came here to support us and I love them."

"Having mum and the family here, my church youths and my college mates, it's really a hundred percent. It's been a boost for the boys, having the culture and the people supporting them and their families."

Moana captain Solomone Finau said he cannot wait to run out on Te'ufaiva Park in Nuku'alofa for the Pasifika side.

"That would be massive, playing at home in front of my family and friends, the King and the people of Tonga," he said.

"I left Tonga as a young boy and am grateful to be in the Moana side. I am sure what we experienced here in the past week has lifted our spirits

"Having the local fans cheer us and back us certainly gives us the spirit to play for them.

"Unfortunately we lost but give us a few more games and we will be up there. I guess having local fans and playing at home helps and the Drua are showing that as well."

Moana Pasifika next play the Melbourne Rebels at Mt Smart Stadium on April 29.

While they are still searching for their first win in 2023, Mauger said that will come soon.