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Moana Pasifika hope to ‘make our people proud’ on historic gameday in Tonga

By Finn Morton
Moana player Sione Havili Talitui (C) leads the team in a challenge to their opponents before the Super Rugby match between the Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua in Melbourne on March 2, 2024. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

Captain Sione Havili Talitui has stated that the Moana Pasifika playing group are motivated to “make our people proud” this weekend when they play in the first-ever Super Rugby Pacific match in Tonga.

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12 players of Tongan heritage will take the field for Moana Pasifika at Teufaiva Stadium on Saturday afternoon when they come up against a Highlanders side desperate for a win.

The Highlanders sit in eighth with 15 competition points to their name, but Moana Pasifika are right there behind them in ninth. Whoever wins this fixture will finish round 11 inside the top eight.

But as skipper Havili Talitui explained, there’s more on the line for the Moana Pasifika playing group and the coaching staff as well.

“We want to put out our best performance for Tonga and we just want to make our people proud,” captain and ‘Ikale Tahi international Sione Havili Talitui said in a statement.

Coach and legendary All Black Fa’alogo Tana Umaga has made three changes to the backline with Jonathan Taumateine earning a start at halfback and former Wallaby Christian Lealiifano getting the nod at first five.

Meanwhile, talented playmaker William Havili has been named at fullback.

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In the forwards, Lotu Inisi comes into the run-on side at number eight and Jacob Norris slots into the side at blindside flanker.

Head-to-Head

Last 4 Meetings

Wins
0
Draws
0
Wins
4
Average Points scored
18
36
First try wins
50%
Home team wins
50%

Moana Pasifika are coming off a tough loss to rivals the Fijian Drua, but after taking the learnings out of that match, they appear intent on bouncing back on a historic afternoon in Nuku’alofa.

This fixture will get underway at 2:05 pm NZT on Saturday afternoon.

Moana Pasifika team to take on Highlanders

  1. Abraham Pole
  2. Samiuela Moli
  3. Sione Mafileo
  4. Tom Savage
  5. Allan Craig
  6. Jacob Norris
  7. Sione Havili Talitui (c)
  8. Lotu Inisi
  9. Jonathan Taumateine
  10. Christian Lealiifano
  11. Fine Inisi
  12. Julian Savea
  13. Henry Taefu
  14. Viliami Fine
  15. William Havili

Replacements

  1. Sama Malolo
  2. Sateki Latu
  3. Sekope Kepu
  4. Ola Tauelangi
  5. Solomone Funaki
  6. Ereatara Enari
  7. Danny Toala
  8. Neria Fomai

Unavailable due to injury: Anzelo Tuitavuki, James Lay, Kyren Taumoefolau, Ofa Tauatevalu, Samuel Slade

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