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Moana Pasifika dealt gauntlet of fire in rejigged Super Rugby Pacific draw

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby have unveiled a rejigged draw for the coming rounds of Super Rugby Pacific which includes a number of midweek fixtures in order to catch up on postponed matches from earlier in the season.

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Three matches involving Moana Pasifika were called off during the opening four weeks of the competition and while the new franchise were able to fit in a replacement game against the Chiefs over the weekend, they are still due to play catch-up fixtures against the Blues and Hurricanes. Meanwhile, all three of last weekend’s originally scheduled matches were postponed.

This weekend’s Round 6 matches are unsurprisingly unaffected but, as already telegraphed, Moana Pasifika will take on the Blues at Mt Smart in a mid-week fixture next Tuesday, on March 29.

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The only change to Round 7 will see the Hurricanes square off with the Chiefs in Wellington, with both teams originally scheduled for a bye, while the Crusaders will host the Highlanders and the Blues will play their reverse fixture with Moana Pasifika.

In Round 8, Moana Pasifika and the Highlanders will play their Round 5 match on the Friday night instead of getting the week off. That pushes the fixture between the Hurricanes and Crusaders a day later to Saturday afternoon while the Chiefs will host the Blues in their scheduled fixture later that evening.

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The following Tuesday, the Hurricanes will host Moana Pasifika for the Pacific Island side’s final midweek game. In the Friday night Round 9 fixture, the Crusaders will play their postponed game from Round 5 with the Blues, shifting the scheduled game between the Highlanders and Hurricanes to a day later. Capping off the round, the Chiefs will play host to Moana Pasifika on Saturday afternoon.

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While the Hurricanes and Blues won’t necessarily fancy each playing three games over the space of 14 days due to the catch-up matches, the challenge is even more significant for Moana Pasifika, who face a daunting schedule that will see them take on the Chiefs, Highlanders, Hurricanes (twice) and Blues (twice) over a three-week period.

“Confirmation of these matches provides certainty for our players, coaches, fans and venues as we make a welcome shift into something close to normal transmission,” said NZR’s general manager of professional rugby and performance, Chris Lendrum. “We will welcome fans back into our stadiums over the next week and now we can also celebrate confirmation of a full draw.”

Lendrum said player welfare was front of mind in rescheduling the matches postponed due to Covid but acknowledged that Moana Pasifika would face a difficult road ahead.

“We believe we’ve landed in a good place and all six New Zealand-based teams have remained committed to ensuring all matches are played. Although the teams have lost their scheduled bye rounds through rounds 7 to 9, those rest periods have been compensated by the weeks off created by the postponements.

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“Our clubs were united in wanting to play all of their matches, compete hard for competition points and ultimately playoff berths. They were also confident they could manage their squads through the balance of the competition to ensure players were in peak form for the finals.

“Moana Pasifika has, unfortunately, been most impacted with two Tuesday-Saturday match weeks, but to this point have also played the least rugby with just two matches and I know the club can’t wait to get some more regular game time in their inaugural season in Super Rugby Pacific.”

Newly rescheduled Super Rugby Pacific matches:

Round 7
Sunday, 3 April: Hurricanes v Chiefs, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 3.35pm
[Postponed from RD 5]

Round 8
Friday, 8 April: Highlanders v Moana Pasifika, Forsyth Barr Stadium, 7.05pm
[Postponed from RD 5]
Saturday, 9 April: Hurricanes v Crusaders, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 4.35pm
[Moved from Friday 8 April]

Round 9
Tuesday, 12 April: Hurricanes v Moana Pasifika, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 7.05pm
[Postponed from RD 4]
Friday, 15 April: Crusaders v Blues, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch, 7.05pm
[Postponed from RD 5]
Saturday, 16 April: Chiefs v Moana Pasifika, FMG Stadium, Waikato, 4.35pm
[Moved from Friday 15 April]

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