Moana Pasifika

Highlanders forced to cancel Queenstown pre-season game

Due to New Zealand's shift to the Covid-19 red light setting, the Queenstown match on February 14 had been called off.

The franchise, though, hoped the match could still be played in a different location.

"This is a difficult pill to swallow for the Highlanders," Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said.

"We would also like to acknowledge all the local contractors and suppliers who have worked with us for the last two years and the local community, especially kids, who ultimately lose out at the end of the day."

Moana Pasifika dedicate first outing to Tonga relief efforts

The Auckland-based club take to the field for the first time on Friday, February 4 (7.05pm kickoff), in a pre-season fixture against the Chiefs at Mt Smart Stadium, and all proceeds, and donations, from the match will go towards supporting the ‘Ofa Atu Tonga’ (Love You Tonga) disaster relief efforts.

Moana Pasifika Trust chair, Savae Sir Michael Jones, said it would ensure added meaning to what was already going to be an historic occasion.

Moana Pasifika recruit two new coaches on eve of Super Rugby Pacific

The side confirmed on Monday that Southland head coach Dale MacLeod and former Blues, Chiefs and Sunwolves prop Pauliasi Manu will join Moana Pasifika for its inaugural season.

Together, the pair join head coach Aaron Mauger and assistant coach Filo Tiatia on the Moana Pasifika coaching team.

MacLeod joins the franchise as a defence coach after having served as Southland assistant coach in 2018 and 2019, and then as head coach between 2020 and 2021.

Moana Pasifika ready to inject new energy into Super Rugby

While players were gradually revealed over the last six weeks, Monday marked another major milestone for Moana Pasifika as their first ever squad was confirmed, with former Highlanders and Crusaders outside back Tima Fainga'anuku completing the 38-man roster.

A Pacific Island franchise in Super Rugby has been a long time coming but having only been granted an unconditional licence in July, Moana Pasifika have worked around the clock to build the team from scratch.

Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua finalise squads

The squads were announced exclusively to fans over the past two months and were finalised alongside teams unveiled by New Zealand and Australia.

Moana Pasifika completed it's playing roster yesterday with the announcement of former Highlanders and Crusaders outside back, Tima Fainga'anuku.

The 38-man squad is brimming with international and domestic experience, including former Wallabies veterans Sekope Kepu and Christian Leali'ifano, alongside several sons of Samoa and Tonga's international sides.

NZ and Moana Super Rugby squads confirmed for 2022

Each of New Zealand's five Super Rugby Pacific squads have been bolstered by notable players who were plying their trade on foreign shores in 2021 including Beauden Barrett (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), TJ Perenara and Dominic Bird (Hurricanes), Pablo Matera (Crusaders) and Marty Banks and Rhys Marshall (Highlanders).

There has also been some movement on the transfer market with 12 players making a move between New Zealand's five clubs, and a further nine players moving to a newly minted Moana Pasifika squad featuring Wallabies veterans Sekope Kepu and Christian Lealifano.

Moana Pasifika's Christian Leali'ifano excited to face former side

But the star signing for Moana Pasifika's inaugural Super Rugby Pacific campaign didn't think it would be in week one.

"There's no hiding now," he joked over the phone from Canberra, where he is in the process of packing up his life before making the big move to Auckland with his family.

"It will be cool - I'm really excited that it's going to be round one and first game for Moana and who better than my old team.

"It's a club that's been a big part of my life and a club that's always going to be really special to me as well."

Newcomers kick off Super Rugby Pacific

The draw for the 15-week regular season, announced on Monday, gives teams a total of 14 matches. These are made up of 11 round-robin fixtures plus the introduction of three additional rivalry matches which will see each team play a home and away series against three other teams.

The top eight teams will join a play-off series in the first week of June. The final is scheduled for 18 June.

New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum said the draw was easy to understand and a level playing field for the teams involved.

'We're going to give it everything' - Moana Pasifika's road to Super Rugby

The Auckland-based franchise will join an expanded competition next year alongside the Fijian Drua and five teams each from New Zealand and Australia.

Head coach Aaron Mauger has been working from his Dunedin home since Tāmaki Makaurau went into lockdown in August, focused on player and staff recruitment and planning the team's first pre-season campaign.

"It's nice, every time we have a management meeting each week there seems to be another person popping on, so that group's growing and they're really critical to helping build our programme."

Filo Tiatia joins Moana Pasifika as assistant coach

He plied his trade in New Zealand, Wales and Japan during a 19 year professional rugby career, including 57 appearance for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby.

Tiatia also has 14 years of professional coaching experience, including stints in charge of Toyota Verblitz and the Sunwolves Super Rugby franchise in Japan, and as an assistant coach with Auckland and the Japanese national team.

The 50 year old will be in charge of the forwards with Moana Pasifika and has already begun working alongside head coach Aaron Mauger.