5 Apr 2024

Pasifika Sipoti: preview of weekend sports

5:20 pm on 5 April 2024
Sekope Kepu will lead Moana Pasifika in Super Rugby Pacific.

Sekope Kepu will lead Moana Pasifika in Super Rugby Pacific. Photo: Photosport

Kepu returns to lead Moana Pasifika

Moana Pasifika head coach Fa'alogo Tana Umaga has named the franchise's original captain Sekope Kepu to lead the side against the Chiefs at the FMG Stadium, Waikato this Saturday.

Kepu sat out most of the 2023 season because of injuries but has been able to play some minutes in the first five rounds of the Super Rugby Pacific competition.

Last weekend he notched some game time against the Blues at Eden Park.

Joining him in the line-up is 15-test Tonga international, Otumaka Mausia.

The quick and elusive utility back has made appearances for Auckland in the NPC and also played for the Western Sydney Two Blues in the Australian domestic competition.

Umaga said Mausia's persistence and hard work has paid off as he now gets his shot at the top level, and Moana will be working on their opportunities.

"This is a new opportunity for us to put our best foot forward and be better than we were last week," he said.

"We're building a resilient group and we know it won't be easy, but we're capable and now is our chance to give our best against the Chiefs."

The former All Black captain has lamented the fact that they had not been able to get good 'ground time' in the past three weeks because of game travel, across the Tasman to Australia.

But he believed his players can put that behind them and focus on the Chiefs this weekend.

Kepu links up with Donald Brighouse in the front row while Ola Tauelangi, Irie Papuni, Semisi Paea and Melani Matavao all get their first starts.

Niko Jones returns to the squad for the first time this year at flanker, with William Havili returning at flyhalf in place of veteran Christian Leali'ifano.

Moana Pasifika matchday 23: 15 Kyren Taumoefolau, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Fine Inisi, 12 Julian Savea, 11 Viliami Fine, 10 William Havili, 9 Melani Matavao, 8 Semisi Paea, 7 Niko Jones, 6 Irie Papuni, 5 Tom Savage, 4 Ola Tauelangi, 3 Sekope Kepu (c), 2 Sama Malolo, 1 Donald Brighouse.

Reserves: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Abraham Pole, 18 Suetena Asomua, 19 Michael Curry, 20 Miracle Faiilagi, 21 Aisea Halo, 22 Otumaka Mausia, 23 D'Angelo Leuila

Fijiana Drua wary of Brumbies women

Fijiana Drua coach Mosese Rauluni has made some changes to his lineup for this weekend's Super W clash against the Brumbies in Canberra.

Last week's win against Western Force in Lautoka meant the Drua are two out of three.

In the front row, Salanieta Nabuli will make her first start of the season at loosehead prop, with Keleni Marawa at hooker.

The versatile Vika Matarugu remains the tighthead prop, while Asinate Serevi makes her second start this season, partnering Jade Coates who retains her spot in the middle row.

Nunia Daunimoala will start at blindside flanker. Sulita Waisega stays at openside and captain Karalaini Naisewa as the number 8 loose forward.

A new halves pairing will drive the backline this week, with Setaita Railumu getting a start at halfback alongside Jenifer Ravutia at 10.

Coach Rauluni said they will need to ensure they are better disciplined than what they showed against the Force last weekend in Lautoka.

He said conceding 29 penalties was too much and they will have to cut that out if they are to survive against the Brumbies.

He identified hands in rucks and not rolling away in breakdowns as key areas they will have to improve.

"We [need] to make do with the refs and adapt to the refs that we get, so we have to be better at that and we have worked on that," he told the media in Nadi.

The Brumbies have never defeated the Fijiana Drua in the Super W competition.

Fijiana Drua matchday 23: 1 Salanieta Nabuli, 2 Keleni Marawa, 3 Vika Matarugu, 4 Asinate Serevi, 5 Jade Coates, 6 Nunia Daunimoala, 7 Sulita Waisega, 8 Karalaini Naisewa (C), 9 Setaita Railumu, 10 Jenifer Ravutia , 11 Atelaite Buna, 12 Merewai Cumu, 13 Vani Arei (VC), 14. Merewairita Neivosa, 15. Luisa Tisolo.

Reserves: 16 Jordyn Tihore, 17 Loraini Senivutu, 18 Tiana Robanakadavu, 19 Mereoni Nakesa, 20 Teresia Tinanivalu, 21 Evivi Senikarivi, 22 Salanieta Kinita, 23 Litiana Lawedrau

The Fijiana Drua will take on Brumbies on Saturday at 7. 05pm (Fiji time).

Captain returns to lead Drua

Captain Meli Derenalagi returns to the Fijian Drua pack this weekend to lead the side against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night.

Derenalagi missed last weekend's battle against the Western Force in Lautoka.

Joining him also is fellow former Queen Victoria School scholar Tevita Ikanivere, who was cleared to play despite a yellow card that was upgraded to a red card in the game against the Force last week.

Head coach Mick Byrne has made a few changes to his matchday 23.

Returning to the lineup are Vilive Miramira who takes up number six while Kitione Salawa will run in at number seven.

Veteran Frank Lomani keeps his halves pairing with an ever-improving Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, with a star-studded backline available for them to run against the Rebels.

Byrne told the media during the week that their focus is trying to win games away from home.

He said that it is something they keep working on and is hopeful the team named can work together to achieve their aim.

"It is something we keep working on every week we are playing away," he said.

"We need to focus on what we can control and play our basics right and to our game plan."

Drua have made some important milestones within their own set up, with Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula currently the second highest points scorer in the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific competition with 60 points, just four points behind Damien McKenzie (Chiefs).

Centre Iosefo Masi is on top of the try-scoring list for this season with six tries, along with Corey Toole and Matt Faessler, while Ikanivere now has the most Fijian Drua appearances, with 30, edging past teammates Isoa Nasilasila and Peni Matawalu who are both on 29.

Pundits say this is probably the most interesting game of the round, with what could be the Drua's best chances to grab an away win.

But the Rebels won't be an easy beat after their win over the Waratahs last weekend.

The Drua vs Melbourne Rebels match will kick off at 7.35pm (Fiji time) on Friday at AAMI Park.

Drua matchday 23: 15 Ilaisa Droasese, 14 Selestino Ravutaumada, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Apisalome Vota, 11 Epeli Momo, 10 Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Meli Derenalagi (c), 7 Kitione Salawa, 6 Vilive Miramira, 5 Leone Rotuisolia, 4 Mesake Vocevoce, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Haereiti Hetet.

Reserves: 16 Zuriel Togiatama, 17 Livai Natave, 18 Jone Koroiduadua, 19 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 20 Elia Canakaivata, 21 Simione Kuruvoli, 22 Waqa Nalaga, 23 Taniela Rakuro.

Rebels matchday 23: 15 Nick Jooste, 14 Darby Lancaster, 13 Filipo Daugunu, 12 David Feliuai, 11 Glen Vaihu, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 7 Maciu Nabolakasi, 6 Angelo Smith, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Josh Canham, 3 Sam Talakai (c), 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Matt Gibbon.

Reserves: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Isaac Kailea, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Daniel Maiava, 20 Vaiolini Ekuasi, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Mason Gordon.

World Rugby Challenge kicks off in Samoa

The Fiji Warriors will be defending the World Rugby Pacific Challenge next week in Apia, Samoa.

Coach Senirusi Seruvakula has named a strong squad, which also includes a number of Fiji Under-20 reps.

Fiji Warriors will meet Tonga A, Samoa's Manuma Samoa and Japan XV in the competition.

Games kick off on Wednesday at Apia Park.

Samoa footballers move up in rankings

Samoa has made the biggest rankings jump in the Oceania Football Confederation.

Samoa jumped to 181, from 186, after their results in the OFC Nations Cup qualifying tournament in Tonga last week.

This is their highest ranking since 2016.

They defeated both Tonga and Cook islands to qualify for the OFC Nations Cup in June.

Cook Islands dropped two places to 187, while Tonga went down five places from 196 to 201.

New Zealand remains the highest-ranked OFC team, but dropped one place to 104 after the FIFA Series loss to Egypt and penalty shoot-out loss to Tunisia.

Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea also both lost ground after the recent FIFA Series.

PNG is on 166, down from 165 while Vanuatu is down two from 170 to 172.

Solomon Islands remains the top South Pacific side in the ranking, sitting at 132, way ahead of New Caledonia at 158 and Fiji at 168, two of the top-ranked sides in the region around 20 years ago.

Under-19s men's event set to roll in Vanuatu

Hosts Vanuatu will face American Samoa in the OFC U-19 men's qualifier opener next Tuesday at the Freswota Stadium in Port Vila.

They will then play next Friday (April 12) and their final game against the Cook Islands on Monday, April 15.

Vanuatu Daily Post said the team has been preparing well under head coach Emerson Alcantara.

Their preparation had included playing some warm-up matches against local sides, with their latest resulting in a 3-0 win over local under-19 side Pango.

Tonga, coached by former Suva rep Lui Muavesi, are in Vila already.

Muavesi and his team have arrived early to acclimatise and also get their final preparations done before they face Cook Islands on April 9.

The winner of the qualifier event will compete in the OFC under-19 championship in Samoa in July.

Weightlifting qualifier

Fiji's Taniela Rainibogi will compete on Monday at the IWF World Cup in Thailand, in his final qualifying event for the Paris Olympics.

Trainer Henry Elder said the 2023 South Pacific Games gold medallist has his last chance to qualify at the Phuket event.

Elder and Rainibogi have been in Thailand over the past week, training and preparing while also watching the competition at the world meet.

They both hope that Samoan lifter Don Opeloge, who is in the same 102-kilogram weight class as Rainibogi, can make the top 10 to give the Fijian hope a better chance of qualifying.

"If Done can make the top 10 then Taniela has a good chance of getting in as the Oceania Continental entry," Elder said.

Rainibogi will need to post at least a 175kg in snatch and and 215kg in clean and jerk.

"That is possible," Elder added,

"We are trusting in God."

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