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Moana Pasifika sign Hurricanes halfback as off-season raid continues

By Alex McLeod
Photo: Jeremy Ward / www.photosport.nz

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Moana Pasifika have added a Hurricanes halfback and two Hawke’s Bay stars to their ranks ahead of their debut season in next year’s inaugural edition of Super Rugby Pacific.

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In an announcement on Monday, the expansion franchise confirmed the arrival of Manu Samoa international Jonathan Taumateine from the Hurricanes.

The 25-year-old joins Moana Pasifika with five seasons of Super Rugby experience to his name after having previously played for the Chiefs between 2017 and 2019, before signing with the Hurricanes ahead of last year’s campaign.

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A former New Zealand and Samoa U20 representative, Taumateine endured limited game time at both franchises, playing a total of just 18 games in his Super Rugby career.

In spite of this, he has been a long-serving member of the Counties Manukau squad since 2016 and played his first two tests for Samoa in their World Cup qualifiers against Tonga in July.

Taumateine, who will compete for the No 9 role with ex-Crusaders halfback Ere Enari, is one of three signings announced by Moana Pasifika this week.

The team confirmed on Tuesday that it has signed two more members of the high-flying Hawke’s Bay side to join provincial teammates Lincoln McClutchie, Ere Enari, Danny Toala, Lolagi Visinia, Solomone Funaki and Neria Foma’i in next year’s squad.

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Tighthead prop Joe Apikotoa has signed on the squad after making his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs as an injury replacement earlier this year, while wing Azelo Tuitavuki has also agreed to terms with the side.

Prior to his five outings for the Chiefs, Apikotoa had previously been part of the Melbourne Storm set-up in 2014 but returned to New Zealand after just a month in Australia to pursue a rugby union career.

Since then, the 25-year-old has racked up 50 NPC matches, 22 of which he played while part of the Wellington squad between 2015 and 2017 before switching to the Magpies in 2018.

Apikotoa, of Tongan heritage, also brings with him overseas playing experience after he turned out for Spanish club Ordizia RE between 2019 and 2020.

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Tuitavuki, meanwhile, will make his first foray into Super Rugby next year after making his provincial debut for Hawke’s Bay last year.

The 23-year-old wing, who is also of Tongan background, has been a more prominent figure for the Magpies this year after having impressed at club rugby and in sevens, but faces fierce competition for a starting role.

Confirmed Moana Pasifika signings for 2022 Super Rugby Pacific

Props: Joe Apikotoa (Chiefs), Sekope Kepu (Counties Manukau), Tau Koloamatangi (Otago), Ezekiel Lindenmuth (Counties Manukau), Isi Tu’ungafasi (Crusaders)

Hookers: Ray Niuia (Blues), Luteru Tolai (Blues)

Locks: Don Lolo (Taieri), Mike McKee (Southland), Alex McRobbie (Counties Manukau), Veikoso Poloniati (Manawatu)

Loose Forwards: Solomone Funaki (Hawke’s Bay), Lotu Inisi (North Harbour), Jack Lam (Waikato), Alamanda Motuga (Counties Manukau), Sam Slade (Counties Manukau), Henry Time-Stowers (Canterbury), Sione Tu’ipulotu (Auckland)

Halfbacks: Ereatara Enari (Crusaders), Jonathan Taumateine (Hurricanes)

First-Fives: Christian Leali’ifano (NTT Communications Shining Arcs), Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke’s Bay)

Midfielders: Levi Aumua (Tasman), Fine Inisi (North Harbour), Henry Taefu (Western Force), Danny Toala (Hurricanes)

Outside Backs: Tomasi Alosio (Wellington), Neria Foma’i (Hawke’s Bay), Solomone Kata (Brumbies), Timoci Tavatavanawai (Tasman), Azelo Tuitavuki (Hawke’s Bay), Lolagi Visinia (Hurricanes)

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