26 May 2023

Pasifika teams face each other - and the heat - in Lautoka

2:12 pm on 26 May 2023
Drua players get ready to face Moana Pasifika

Drua players get ready to face Moana Pasifika Photo: Fiji Drua

It is a do or die battle for the two Super Rugby Pacific Pacific teams this weekend.

One is chasing their first win ever in 2023 while the other is battling to cement a semifinal spot in their second year of competition.

The Fijian Drua host Moana Pasifika at Churchill Park in Lautoka at 2.05pm on Saturday.

That is when the sun is expected to be hot and humidity will be high.

Drua has the upper hand, having won their first clash this season in Auckland, defeating Moana Pasifika 36-34.

While overseas teams had struggled in the heat in the past encounters there, Moana Pasifika hopes their decision to arrive in Lautoka earlier this week will help on Saturday.

Humidity a concern

Head coach Aaron Mauger, who had taken his team to Samoa two months ago, believes the humidity will be a key factor.

He and his squad have been trying to adapt to that in the four days since arriving in Fiji.

"We expected that though, that's why we are here early, hopefully we can adapt and get out on the sun," Mauger told FBC Sports on Thursday.

He said they were training at the time the game kicks off as part of their preparation regime.

Mauger, who is finishing off as coach after the last round of games next week, is still trying to record a win with Moana Pasifika this season.

Despite close games during the season the Moana warriors have not been able to finish the job when it counted.

Star player Levi Aumua, who is joining the Crusaders in 2024, has been named in a strong lineup to face the Drua.

Aumua, a part Fijian, will have robust Fijian winger Timoci Tavatavanawai, Tongan Tima Fainga'anuku around him and Tongan fullback William Havili on the backline.

They will be tested by the Fijian backline combination of centres Iosefa Masi and Kalaveti Ravouvou and the wing combination of Eroni Sau and Selesitioni Ravutaumada.

Drua regroups

Drua captain Meli Derenalagi has called for his team to regroup after their loss to the Waratahs last weekend in Sydney.

It was only with 10 minutes remaining that the Waratahs got away from them in the four-tries-to-two victory.

On 18 points they are just four points adrift of the Western Force (22 points) and with two games to play, against Moana Pasifika and the Reds in Fiji.

Derenalagi admitted the travel to and from Western Australia has affected them.

"It has been two hard games away from and jetlag hit us hard the first week in Perth, but for the Waratahs game it was there for the taking but we didn't take the opportunities."

The Drua have defeated the Crusaders, Rebels and Hurricanes at home in 2023.

Of interest to note also in the match is the opportunity that Moana Pasifika winger Tavatavanawai has to stake a claim in the Flying Fijians Rugby World Cup squad.

Fijian head coach Simon Rawalui is currently working on his squad and while many rugby followers had queried why Tavatavanawai has not been given the opportunity to wear the white jumper.

Saturday will his chance to prove his worth before the Fijian rugby public again.