12 Jul 2021

Moana Pasifika to be confirmed in Super Rugby

6:05 am on 12 July 2021

Moana Pasifika's place in an expanded Super Rugby competition is set to be confirmed today, with two former All Blacks to lead the coaching set-up.

Moana Pasifika logo

Moana Pasifika are set to make their Super Rugby debut in 2022. Photo: Photosport

New Zealand Rugby awarded the franchise a conditional licence in April to join a revamped competition, alongside five teams from New Zealand, five from Australia and the Fijian Drua.

Confirmation was expected last month but complications over finance, the competition format and getting buy-in from Rugby Australia led to extended delays.

RNZ Pacific has been told an announcement will be made today confirming Moana Pasifika's licence to compete next season.

Importantly, that will allow officials to finally start offering proper contracts to prospective recruits and begin locking in their playing roster ahead of a likely February kick-off.

Moana Pasifika captain Michael Alaalatoa  during the match.

Michael Alaalatoa captained Moana Pasifika against the Māori All Blacks but has already signed with Irish side Leinster. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020 www.photosport.nz

Meanwhile former All Black Aaron Mauger is set to be unveiled as the inaugural coach of the Auckland-based franchise, with Filo Tiatia as his assistant.

Mauger, 40, is of Samoan and Cook Islands descent and was a part of the Moana Pasifika coaching team for last year's one-off clash against the Māori All Blacks.

He coached the Highlanders from 2018-2020 but his contract was not renewed, and had previous stints with the Crusaders and Samoa (as assistant coach) and Leicester Tigers (as head coach).

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger.

Aaron Mauger spent three seasons in charge of the Highlanders. Photo: Photosport

Tiatia, 50, was in charge of the Sunwolves Super Rugby team in 2017 and has held other coaching roles in Wales, Japan and New Zealand.

The older brother of ex Manu Samoa hooker Ace, Tiatia resigned as assistant coach of the Auckland NPC team earlier this year following reports of "fractured relationships" between some players and coaches.

Representatives from the Samoa and Tonga Rugby Union said they had no involvement with any proposed announcement regarding Moana Pasifika, with one suggesting they had "heard the rumour", while another professed to be "not aware of any at all."

Auckland assistant coach Filo Tiatia.

Filo Tiatia will assist Aaron Mauger. Photo: Photosport

It's unclear whether there will be an update on the licence for the Fijian Drua franchise, which has been in talks with a range of private investors and has also been handed financial support from the Australian government.

But with Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and the Cook Islands all competing on New Zealand shores this month, including many non-professionals, there is no better time for players, coaches and management alike to get some much-needed certainty.

Stacey Ili is among a small number of current Super Rugby players in the Samoa and Tongan squads.

Stacey Ili is among a small number of current Super Rugby players in the Samoa and Tongan squads. Photo: PHOTOSPORT