Moana Pasifika sign Hurricanes duo to add experience to squad
Both players arrive from the Hurricanes, the Wellington-based franchise they played for in this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
In the case of Toala, the move brings an end to his three-season spell with the Hurricanes, who he signed with as a teenager ahead of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
During his time at Sky Stadium, the 22-year-old utility back – who is of Samoan heritage and can play second-five or fullback – has had limited chances to showcase his talents that made him a schoolboy sensation at Hastings Boys’ High School.
In total, Toala played just four times for the Hurricanes, including a solitary appearance off the bench in the team’s final match of the season against the Reds in June.
However, the highly-touted former New Zealand Schools and New Zealand U20 representative has featured regularly for Hawke’s Bay since his Magpies debut in his first year out of school in 2018.
All in all, Toala has represented Hawke’s Bay 28 times, mostly starting at second-five, and has played a key role in the side’s success in recent years.
That includes retaining and defending the Ranfurly Shield since last year, winning the 2020 NPC Championship division and sitting atop the current NPC Premiership table.
Toala has shared his success at Hawke’s Bay with Visinia, who joined the province and the Hurricanes after returning to New Zealand from overseas last year.
In his 10th year as a professional player, Visinia – of Samoan descent – will provide Moana Pasifika with plenty of experience from two separate Super Rugby stints, a spell in France and a campaign in Japan.
Like Toala, Visinia is an ex-New Zealand Schools and New Zealand U20 representative who began his career with Auckland in his first year out of Kelston Boys’ High School in 2012.
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Formerly regarded as one of the top schoolboy players in the country, the 28-year-old made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues the following year, but left for greener pastures at the end of 2016 after struggling to impose himself in New Zealand.
With 33 Blues caps and 40 Auckland appearances to his name, Visinia signed with French club Grenoble, who he helped win promotion from the second-tier Pro D2 to the Top 14 during his two-year stay.
The winger then moved to Japan to join the NEC Green Rockets ahead of the 2020 Top League season, but was confined to just five appearances for the club due the outbreak of Covid-19.
That resulted in a move back to New Zealand last year as he signed with Hawke’s Bay, helping the Magpies win the Ranfurly Shield and the NPC Championship with five tries in 11 matches.
Visinia’s efforts earned him a contract with the Hurricanes for this year’s Super Rugby campaign, but, similarly to Toala, opportunities were hard to come by as his only appearance for the franchise came off the bench against the Melbourne Rebels.
Toala and Visinia will be joined at Moana Pasifika by a number of their Hawke’s Bay teammates, including first-five Lincoln McClutchie, halfback Ere Enari, flanker Solomone Funaki and wing Neria Foma’i.
Confirmed Moana Pasifika signings for 2022 Super Rugby Pacific
Props: Sekope Kepu (Counties Manukau)
Locks: Don Lolo (Taieri), Mike McKee (Southland), Veikoso Poloniati (Manawatu)
Loose Forwards: Solomone Funaki (Hawke’s Bay), Lotu Inisi (North Harbour), Jack Lam (Waikato), Alamanda Motuga (Counties Manukau), Henry Time-Stowers (Canterbury), Sione Tu’ipulotu (Auckland)
Halfbacks: Ereatara Enari (Crusaders)
First-Fives: Christian Leali’ifano (NTT Communications Shining Arcs), Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke’s Bay)
Outside Backs: Tomasi Alosio (Wellington), Neria Foma’i (Hawke’s Bay), Lolagi Visinia (Hurricanes)
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