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‘Get what you deserve’: Tana Umaga leads Moana Pasifika’s 2024 playoffs push

By Finn Morton
Fa'alogo Tana Umaga, Assistant Coach of Samoa looks on during the Captain's Run ahead of their Rugby World Cup France 2023 match against England at Stade Pierre Mauroy on October 06, 2023 in Lille, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

With legendary All Black Tana Umaga steering the ship as head coach, Moana Pasifika are setting their sights on a maiden playoff berth ahead of their third Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

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Moana Pasifika claimed headline-grabbing wins over the Hurricanes, Brumbies and Waratahs during their first two seasons, but the Pasifika side has otherwise struggled for consistency.

Beating the Tahs in Sydney was a shining light at the end of an otherwise difficult season this year, with Moana finishing at the bottom of the pile.

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But Moana have made some impressive moves in the off-season. They’ve assembled a world-class coaching group of Tana Umaga, former Wales playmaker Stephen Jones, and ex-Blues assistant Tom Coventry – and that’s just the start.

Wing Julian Savea – affectionally labelled ‘The Bus’ during the height of his career with the All Blacks – headlines a talented playing group too, which includes prop Sekope Kepu, Chrisitan Lealiifano and Danny Toala.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about where Moana Pasifika are going as a team, and for coach Umaga, that means setting the bar at a first-ever trip to the knockout rounds.

“We want to win more than one game,” Umaga said, as reported by Stuff.

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“We want to get off the bottom. I’m not big at making massive goals in terms of openly.

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“I believe we can challenge for the top eight. There are only four teams that miss out, so we want to challenge for that area.

“But if we can keep working week by week, get that one win and then we can hopefully put something together.

“That’s what we can aim for because at the minute we haven’t shown anything that says we deserve anything more.

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“You get what you deserve and you get what you work for and we’ve shown that we can work, be as competitive as we can and hopefully we can tip some teams over.”

Moana Pasifika have brought 19 new players into their squad ahead of the 2024 season, with a number of their recruits impressing in New Zealand’s NPC and over in Europe.

In another big tick, the same number of players donned their countries’ colours at the Rugby World Cup in France. But as Umaga discussed, the hunt for finals footy is still “not going to be easy.”

“It’s up to us as coaches to try to develop them and tailor the learning to suit them, to make sure we’re doing everything we can so they can progress in our game,” Umaga added.

“If it was easy everyone would be doing it, so we’ve got to make sure we’re efficient with our time and what we’re teaching, but we’ve got a group that’s keen.

“That’s the main thing, they’re energised to make the most of this opportunity and I’ve let them know in no uncertain terms that this is an opportunity and it’s up to them to take that with both hands. Don’t just be comfortable about being here, because you’ve achieved the goal of becoming a professional rugby player.

“You get that the day you sign, but to sustain yourself in this game and vocation it’s about hard work.

“Some do get comfortable and we’ll have to manage them though. Keep on them, to make sure they make the most of this opportunity.”

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