Moana Pasifika make nine changes to starting team for Hurricanes rematch
Moana Pasifika have made nine changes to their starting team as they eye back-to-back Super Rugby Pacific victories over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Tuesday.
The new expansion franchise will return to action just four days after their 37-17 defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday as they make up for lost ground following the rescheduling of this fixture due to Covid outbreaks earlier in the season.
With such a tight turnaround, head coach Aaron Mauger has made numerous alterations to his last-placed side as he utilises the full depth of his playing squad.
As such, nine new players will line up for Moana Pasifika in the Kiwi capital, with former Wallabies playmaker Christian Leali’ifano named to captain the side for the first time with regular skipper Sekope Kepu unavailable through injury.
Leali’ifano, one of six players retained in the starting team from the weekend’s loss, will be accompanied by two new vice-captains in the form of Manu Samoa duo Alamanda Motuga and Jonathan Taumateine, who replaces Ereatara Enari at halfback.
The mid-week clash will be a homecoming of sorts for Taumateine, who was part of the Hurricanes set-up for two seasons before joining Moana Pasifika this year.
Together, he and Leali’ifano will direct a backline that features an unchanged midfield combination of Danny Toala, another ex-Hurricane who scored Moana Pasifika’s decisive try in their extra-time win against his old team last month, and Levi Aumua.
Tima Fainga’anuku has also kept his place on the right wing, but will form one third of a new outside back trio that includes former Hurricanes and Blues speedster Lolagi Visinia and Manu Samoa flyer Neria Foma’i.
Up front, Joe ‘Apikotoa acts as Kepu’s replacement at tighthead prop, while Tongan international Sam Moli replaces the injured Luteru Tolai at hooker.
The front row is rounded out by loosehead prop Abraham Pole, who takes the place of the benched Ezekiel Lindenmuth.
Manu Samoa lock Sam Slade remains in the second row, where he is partnered up with Mahonri Ngakuru, while Motuga is joined in the loose forwards by blindside flanker Alex McRobbie and Manu Samoa No 8 Henry Time-Stowers.
Lindenmuth is one of seven new faces in the reserves, with young first-five Lincoln McClutchie the only players who has kept his place on the bench from the Highlanders match.
Manu Samoa duo Ray Niuia and Henry Taefu, as well as Hong Kong prop Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi, are all included on the pine, as is lock Michael Curry, loose forward Penitoa Finau and halfback Manu Paea.
In addition to Kepu and Tolai, various other players – ‘Ikale Tahi internationals Don Lolo and Lotu Inisi, prop Isi Tu’ungafasi, Manu Samoa loose forward Jack Lam and lock Mike McKee – were all unavailable for selection because of injury.
Kick-off for Tuesday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm NZT.
Moana Pasifika team to play Hurricanes
1. Abraham Pole
2. Sam Moli
3. Joe ‘Apikotoa
4. Mahonri Ngakuru
5. Sam Slade
6. Alex McRobbie
7. Alamanda Motuga (vc)
8. Henry Time-Stowers
9. Jonathan Taumateine (vc)
10. Christian Leali’ifano (c)
11. Neria Foma’i
12. Danny Toala
13. Levi Aumua
14. Tima Fainga’anuku
15. Lolagi Visinia
16. Ray Niuia
17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth
18. Taukiha’amea Koloamatangi
19. Michael Curry
20. Penitoa Finau
21. Manu Paea
22. Lincoln McClutchie
23. Henry Taefu
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