Moana Pasifika bring in former Wallabies playmaker for Chiefs challenge
After a promising first-up performance against the Crusaders earlier this month, head coach Aaron Mauger has retained the bulk of the Moana Pasifika starting line-up for this Saturday’s clash with the Chiefs.
While the newest Super Rugby franchise eventually fell to a 33-12 defeat at the Crusaders’ hands, Moana Pasifika held their own for much of the match and scored the first try of the encounter thanks to a great break by first five Lincoln McClutchie.
Ironically, shifting McClutchie to the bench is one of only three changes that Mauger has made to the run-on side, with the experienced Christian Lealiiafano tasked with wearing the No 10 jersey against the high-flying Chiefs.
There’s also been a change at halfback with former Chief Jonathan Taumateine selected to partner Lealiiafano and Ereatari Enari dropping to the reserves. Aaron Mauger highlighted the strength of the positional group within Moana Pasifika.
“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,” he said of the changes.
“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.”
The only change to the reserves sees Hawke’s Bay loose forward Josh Kaifa take the place of Jack Lam.
Although Moana Pasifika have played just the one competition game against the Crusaders since their inception, they did take on the Chiefs as their sole pre-season fixture earlier this year. The Chiefs won that match at a canter, scoring nine tries in a 61-7 thrashing of Super Rugby’s new boys.
“We were excited to play the Hurricanes and would have benefited from the experience, but the right call was made to protect player welfare,” head coach Aaron Mauger said.
“This week we were preparing to play the Highlanders on Friday, instead we look forward to facing the challenge that the Chiefs will bring on our home ground.
“We have been focussing on fine tuning our execution. In the second half against the Crusaders, we had opportunities to put them under pressure and they started to feel it as well. We will be sharper this week against the Chiefs and will keep getting better.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:05pm from Mt Smart Stadium in South Auckland.
Moana Pasifika team to play Chiefs:
- Ezekiel Lindenmuth
- Luteru Tolai
- Sekope Kepu (c)
- Mike McKee
- Samuel Slade
- Sione Tu’ipulotu (Debut)
- Solomone Funaki
- Henry Time-Stowers
- Jonathan Taumateine
- Christian Leali’ifano
- Neria Foma’i
- Danny Toala
- Levi Aumua
- Tima Fainga’anuku
- William HaviliReserves
- Samiuela Moli
- Taukiha’amea Koloamatagi
- Joe Apikotoa
- Alex McRobbie
- Josh Kaifa (Debut)
- Ereatara Enari
- Lincoln McClutchie
- Fine Inisi
Unavailable due to injury: Don Lolo (shoulder), Solomone Kata (knee), Lolagi Visinia (foot), Alamanda Motuga (wrist), Anzelo Tuitavuki (hamstring), Manu Paea (concussion), Isi Tu’ungafasi (neck), Penitoa Finau (back), Lotu Inisi (ankle).
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