9 May 2024

Super Rugby Pacific: D-Day matches for Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika

4:30 pm on 9 May 2024
Fijian Drua's Tevita Ikanivere (front in green) leads the forward pack at training in Perth, ahead of the team's battle against Western Force in Round 12 of the Super Rugby Pacific on Saturday on May 11, 2024. Photo: Fijian Drua

Fijian Drua's Tevita Ikanivere (front in green) leads the forward pack at training in Perth, ahead of the team's battle against Western Force in Round 12 of the Super Rugby Pacific on Saturday on May 11, 2024. Photo: Fijian Drua Photo: Fijian Drua

It is D-Day for both the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika in Round 12 of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific competition.

Basically, this Cultural Round is the telling round for them as far as their dreams of making finals footy is concerned because losing this weekend closes the door for them to progress.

The bad day at the office against the Western Force (12th) will send the Fijian Drua (8th) further down the ladder, and the situation is the same is for Moana Pasifika (9th), who get to face the Chiefs (4th) for the second time this year.

The equation this week stands something like this:

  • Drua needs to win to get four points. If they do, they will have 21 points to their name after this weekend's round of matches.
  • But Drua will have to see whether the Highlanders defeat the Crusaders in Dunedin. A Highlanders win will see the team stay at seventh spot.
  • If Moana Pasifika wins and Drua loses, then Moana will secure four points and will jump to number eight.
  • If Moana and the Drua both lose and the Crusaders win against the Highlanders, then the defending champion will jump to number eight, leap-frogging both Pasifika teams.

That is something both the Drua and Moana Pasifika camps are toying with as they prepare for their critical matches.

Moana Pasifika gets to battle first, meeting the Chiefs at Mount Smart stadium in Auckland on Friday. While Drua plays the last game of the round late night, around 11.55pm on Saturday (NZ time).

Destiny in their hands

Drua head coach Mick Byrne said the team's destiny sits squarely with the players.

Byrne said whether they make it into the finals stage is something the team will have to decide for themselves that begins with the Force battle in Perth.

"Games take care of the results," he told the media on Wednesday.

"Other teams are gonna be winning and we are on eight and four to go. The message is take control ourselves and here is an opportunity to win games now on the road and at home.

"Everything is in our hands."

Byrne said they are confident after going through their preparation after the Brumbies loss last weekend.

But he knows it will have to be a mental game for his team to pull the win out of the bag.

"We beat them in Lautoka. On our day if we can play our best rugby, we are going to be competitive and have a real chance," he said.

"They have real belief after what they got out of the game last weekend in Canberra against the Brumbies and that's a lot of confidence build.

"But it has to start with our mindset."

Making the right choices on the field and the right call by the coaches will need to be improved, especially after two wrong calls went against the team in Canberra.

Bryne said they are learning and hopefully they can better that against the Force, who will also be out to revenge their earlier loss in Lautoka.

There is one change in the starting lineup, with fullback Iliesa Droasese returning.

This weekend's match will be Drua's 40th in the Super Rugby Pacific series.

Flyhalf Isaiah Armstrong Ravula, who retains his number 10 jumper, is the second-highest points scorer in the Fijian Drua's short history so far. He is currently on 84 points in just his first season.

Hooker Tevita Ikanivere has reclaimed the title of 'Most Fijian Drua appearances' with 33 games so far.

Meanwhile, the Force are hurting also - having lost two games on the road in New Zealand in the last fortnight.

They have an outside chance of qualifying - and a win against the Fijians at home will be a boost for them.

Fijian Drua match-day 23: 1. Haereiti Hetet, 2. Tevita Ikanivere, 3. Mesake Doge, 4. Mesake Vocevoce, 5. Isoa Nasilasila, 6. Vilive Miramira, 7. Kitione Salawa, 8. Meli Derenalagi (c), 9. Peni Matawalu, 10. Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 11. Taniela Rakuro, 12. Michael Naitokani, 13. Iosefo Masi, 14. Selestino Ravutaumada, 15. Ilaisa Droasese; Reserves: 16. Zuriel Togiatama, 17. Emosi Tuqiri, 18. Samu Tawake, 19. Leone Rotuisolia, 20. Motikiai Murray, 21. Simi Kuruvoli, 22. Kemu Valetini, 23. Epeli Momo.

Western Force match-day 23: 1. Marley Pearce, 2. Tom Horton, 3. Santiago Medrano, 4. Jeremy Williams (c), 5. Izack Rodda, 6. Will Harris, 7. Carlo Tizzano, 8. Reed Prinsep, 9. Nic White, 10. Ben Donaldson, 11. Chase Tiatia, 12. Hamish Stewart, 13. Bayley Kuenzle, 14. George Poolman, 15. Kurtley Beale; Reserves: 16. Feleti Kaitu'u, 17. Harry Hoopert, 18. Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19. Lopeti Faifua, 20. Michael Wells, 21. Henry Robertson, 22. Sam Spink, 23. Henry O'Donnell.

The Moana Pasifika lineup to battle the Chiefs on May 10, 2024. Artwork: Moana Pasifika

The Moana Pasifika lineup to battle the Chiefs on May 10, 2024. Artwork: Moana Pasifika Photo: Moana Pasifika

Moana Pasifika face tough clash

Moana Pasifika return to where it all began at Mt Smart for the Cultural Round.

They face the Chiefs, who currently sit at number four on the table.

Assistant Coach Tom Coventry said it will be a tough challenge as the Chiefs have proven to be a tough competitor in the competition so far.

"The Chiefs have set themselves apart in this competition. They're a tough team and they'll be trying to get themselves to the end of the season in form," Coventry said.

"It will be a big challenge for us. We were poor the last time we played them and didn't measure up, so, we're going to try close that gap this week."

Coventry said a set-back for them is missing out on some senior players who have to be rested this weekend.

That includes captain Sione Havili Talitui plus flyhalves William Havili and Christian Leali'ifano.

"Some of our guys have done a fair amount of travelling and it takes its toll," he said.

"We've got a group that have worked really hard with our trainer while we've been away. It's an opportunity to give them a crack and get our squad back together again."

It might not be Moana Pasifika's strongest team.

But the coaches are hopeful the team will be able to hold their own in the match.

Former Chiefs squad member Lalomilo Lalomilo will make his Moana Pasifika debut at centre against his former club.

The skilful back will get his chance to impress linking up with Pepesana Patafilo in the midfield.

North Harbour halfback Siaosi Nginingini has been name don the bench and should be making his debut also later in the second spell.

Coventry said Nginingini has worked diligently throughout the year to earn his place in the playing 23.

Manu Samoa international and hooker Sama Malolo will lead the side.

The game is scheduled for 7.05pm on Friday night.

Moana Pasifika match-day 23: 1. Sateki Latu, 2. Sama Malolo (c), 3. Suetena Asomua, 4. Tom Savage, 5. Allan Craig, 6. Miracle Fai'ilagi, 7. Alamanda Motuga, 8. Lotu Inisi, 9. Aisea Halo, 10. D'Angelo Leuila, 11. Nerai Fomai, 12. Lalomilo Lalomilo, 13. Pepesana Patafilo, 14. Nigel Ah Wong, 15. Danny Toala; Reserves: 16. Tomasi Maka, 17.Abraham Pole, 18.Sione Mafileo, 19. Semisi Paea, 20. Irie Papuni, 21. Siaoisi Nginingini, 22. Otumaka Mausia, 23. Kyren Taumoefolau.

Chiefs match-day 23: 1. Ollie Norris, 2. Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3. Reuben O'Neill, 4. Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 5. Tupou Vaa'i, 6.Simon Parker, 7. Luke Jacobson (c), 8. Wallace Sititi, 9. Xavier Roe, 10. Josh Jacomb, 11. Daniel Rona, 12. Quinn Tupaea, 13. Anton Lienert-Brown, 14. Liam Coombes-Fabling, 15. Etene Nanai Seturo; Reserves: 16.Tyrone Thompson, 17. Jared Proffit, 18. Sione Ahio, 19. Hamilton Burr, 20.Tom Florence, 21.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22. Rameka Pohipi, 23. Gideon Wrampling.

Other Super Rugby matches this weekend will see Reds battling the Rebels on Friday night in Brisbane, the Blues host the Hurricanes on Saturday, Highlanders take on the Crusaders in Dunedin while the Waratahs square off against the Brumbies.