17 May 2024

Pasifika Sipoti - preview of weekend sports

5:36 pm on 17 May 2024
Fijian Drua players at the gym in preparation for their clash against the Reds in Suva on Saturday, May 18, 2024. Photo: Fijian Drua

Fijian Drua players at the gym in preparation for their clash against the Reds in Suva on Saturday, May 18, 2024. Photo: Fijian Drua Photo: Fijian Drua

No other way but win for Drua

There is no other way for the Fijian Drua but to win this weekend's clash against the Reds in Suva if the team is serious about making it into the top eight of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific competition.

It is the message head coach Mick Byrne has emphasised to the players over the last seven days.

He was disappointed, along with around 800,00 Fijian fans who follow the team, with the loss to the Force in Perth last Saturday night.

Admitting teams in the top eight sometimes have slip-ups, Byrne told the media that can not happen again.

To secure their top eight spot, which is shaky at the moment, the Drua will need to win against the Reds and the Rebels at home plus the Highlanders away in Dunedin in their last there games.

With their away record at nil success the best bet would be that the team, like they have done so far at home this year apart from the loss to the Hurricanes, is for them to win the two home matches.

That starts with the Reds, who will feature their own Fijian imports in Peni Ravai, Suliasi Vunivalu and Seru Uru.

Byrne said there is no more option for a slip-up.

"What we know about a full team competition top eight, you can have a couple of slipups," Byrne said.

"We've had our slipups and can't have any more. So last Saturday was a slip up and we still survived and we're still in the eighth.

"We win our next three and we keep winning we will be okay, so you just got to be careful. We're at eight and it's totally in our control. As I say the destiny is in our hands, we just got to keep winning."

The last time the Drua played at the National Stadium in Suva a sell-out crowd packed every inch of the space available for sitting.

Byrne said they expect the same turnout on Saturday and the players owe a lot to the fans who have been faithful to the team.

"We know how much you love the team and we know you turn up every week loud and supportive," he said.

"Rest assured that you've been spoken about at the beginning of the week about what we owe you and we'll turn up Saturday and reward you with a performance that matches your performance."

The Drua have named a strong lineup to face what Byrne said will be a "tough, physical side".

Facing qualification for the top eight in 2023 the Drua defeated the Reds at the same venue and won their first quarterfinal spot in the competition.

Byrne said the same is still possible this weekend and the team's destiny is now in their hands.

Young Waqa Nalaga will get his first start at number 12 and will pair with his Fiji Under-20 partner Isaiah Washington Ravula.

Retained this week are Tevita Ikanivere, Mesake Doge, Mesake Vocevoce, Isoa Nasilasila, Kitione Salawa, Armstrong-Ravula, Selestino Ravutaumada, Masi and Ilaisa Droasese.

Prop Jone Koroiduadua returns after sitting out his suspension.

Drua play the Reds at 2.05pm on Saturday.

Fijian Drua match-day 23: 1. Jone Koroiduadua, 2. Tevita Ikanivere (c), 3. Mesake Doge, 4. Mesake Vocevoce, 5.Isoa Nasilasila, 6.Etonia Waqa, 7. Kitione Salawa, 8. Elia Canakaivata, 9. Simione Kuruvoli, 10. Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 11. Epeli Momo, 12. Waqa Nalaga, 13. Iosefo Masi, 14. Selestino Ravutaumada, 15. Ilaisa Droasese; Reserves: 16. Mesulame Dolokoto, 17. Emosi Tuqiri, 18. Samu Tawake, 19. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 20. Vilive Miramira, 21. Peni Matawalu, 22. Kemu Valetini, 23. Taniela Rakuro.

Some young Fijian fans with their Reds players in Nadi on Thursday. The Reds play the Fijian Drua in Suva on Saturday, May 18, 2024. Photo: Reds

Some young Fijian fans with their Reds players in Nadi on Thursday. The Reds play the Fijian Drua in Suva on Saturday, May 18, 2024. Photo: Reds Photo: Reds

Reds chase top four finish

The Reds have named winger Floyd Aubrey to start for the first time as part of sweeping changes by Les Kiss in a must-win game for the Queensland Reds' top-four Super Rugby Pacific hopes.

Kiss has moved winger Tim Ryan to the bench and is resting Mac Grealy.

"I'm a big believer in giving young players a go when they are good," Kiss explained to AAP.

"Tim Ryan has been proving that but it's also about managing their exposure the right way at this level. He'll have the chance to attack this game from the bench."

Suliasi Vunivalu will start on the other wing, and Seru Uru returns from a broken thumb on the bench.

Test hooker Matt Faessler and banged-up No.13 Josh Flook have also been rested.

Josh Nasser and Taj Annan will replace that pair, while Tate McDermott will start at halfback and James O'Connor shapes as a key late-game figure off the bench.

Two wins behind the fourth-placed Chiefs with three rounds remaining, the Reds must win in Fiji to remain in the hunt for a top-four finish and a home final.

"We're not watching the ladder intently and getting hijacked by it, but we know every win we put on the board puts pressure on other people," Kiss said.

"Get this win, it makes things possible.

"We've tried to go there fresh. A lot of lads are getting their first, second, third chance.

"It's a chance to change tack a bit."

Ryan has scored six tries in his past three games, but Aubrey poses his own threat in what is expected to be another wet Fijian affair.

"He's an instinctive type of player, those conditions often can suit him," Kiss said.

"He could do anything out of the blue, for sure."

Reds match-day 23: 1. Peni Ravai, 2. Josh Nasser, 3. Zane Nonggorr, 4. Ryan Smith, 5. Cormac Daly, 6. Liam Wright (co-c), 7. Fraser McReight, 8. John Bryant, 9. Tate McDermott (co-c), 10. Lawson Creighton, 11. Floyd Aubrey, 12. Hunter Paisami, 13. Taj Annan, 14. Suliasi Vunivalu, 15. Jock Campbell; Reserves: 16. George Blake, 17. Sef Fa'agase, 18. Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, 19. Seru Uru, 20. Joe Brial, 21. Kalani Thomas, 22.James O'Connor, 23. Tim Ryan.

Blues rest top trio for Highlanders clash

The Blues are resting three top players when they host the Highlanders at Eden Park on Saturday night.

Mark Tele'a (right wing), Hoskins Sotutu (No 8) and Patrick Tuipulotu (lock) are all unavailable.

They are been given time to rest.

In their place come A.J. Lam, Akira Ioane and Laghlan McWhannell.

Also available Stephen Perofeta, returning from a shoulder injury. He will come off the bench.

Prop Mason Tupeae is set to make his Blues debut from the bench.

The Highlanders have named an unchanged squad, while Ayden Johnstone will play his 50th game for the club.

"We were happy with how the team executed the plan last week and they have all retained their spots, but this is a new week and a new challenge, we've reset and are working hard in getting our preparation right for this weekend," head coach Clarke Dermody said.

The match will kick-off at 7.05pm at Eden Park.

Highlanders match-day 23: 1. Ethan de Groot (c), 2. Henry Bell, 3. Jermaine Ainsley, 4. Mitch Dunshea, 5. Fabian Holland, 6. Oliver Haig, 7. Sean Withy, 8. Nikora Broughton, 9. Folau Fakatava, 10. Cameron Millar, 11. Martin Bogado, 12. Jake Te Hiwi, 13. Tanielu Tele'a, 14. Timoci Tavatavanawai, 15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens; Reserves: 16. Jack Taylor,

17. Ayden Johnstone, 18. Saula Ma'u, 19. Will Tucker, 20. Will Stodart, 21. James Arscott, 22. Sam Gilbert, 23. Finn Hurley.

Blues match-day 23: 1. Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2. Kurt Eklund, 3. Marcel Renata, 4. Laghlan McWhannell, 5. Sam Darry, 6. Adrian Choat, 7. Dalton Papali'i (c), 8. Akira Ioane, 9. Sam Nock, 10. Harry Plummer, 11. Caleb Clarke, 12. Corey Evans, 13. Bryce Heem, 14. A.J. Lam, 15. Cole Forbes; Reserves: 16. Soane Vikena, 17. Mason Tupaea, 18. Angus Ta'avao, 19. Josh Beehre, 20. Cameron Suafoa, 21. Taufa Funaki, 22. Stephen Perofeta, 23. Kade Banks.

Brumbies eye ending 15-year Crusaders drought

The ACT Brumbies understand the challenge as they face the possibility of ending a 15-year drought against the Crusaders at home this weekend.

The Brumbies have not defeated the side since 2009 - a long 15 years of waiting.

Coach Stephen Larkham has tasted success against the Crusaders back in 2004 and he hopes that will be enough inspiration for this brigade.

"We've got a pretty bad track record against them but the guys that are playing on the weekend haven't been a part of that," he told reporters this week.

"It's certainly an opportunity and we got close last year with a team that we made a far few changes in, which was one of two earmarked games by Rugby Australia last year as opportunities to rest players that were competing in the World Cup.

"We made several changes leading into the Crusaders and we were still close but we were very disappointed coming out of that game. These guys have more recent disappointment but we've had a long period when the Crusaders have had it over us."

Larkham drew plenty of similarities to last week's build-up against the Waratahs, wary of a Crusaders side that need victory to keep their finals dreams alive.

"They're not far off eighth at the moment, only around four points providing results go their way but they've been close in a number of the games when you look at their season," the AAP reported.

"They're playing really good Rugby, it's just not resulting in the wins each week.

"It's a similar challenge to the Waratahs who we thought were playing well through the season but hadn't got the wins and it's also a traditional rivalry that the boys get up for every year."

Flyhalf Noah Lolesio returns to the starting side, missing the win over the Waratahs due to a head knock.

Nick Frost moves to blindside flanker with Rob Valetini shifting to his favoured number eight, with Charlie Cale ruled out with an ankle sprain.

The Crusaders are struggling with their own demons.

The defending champions have an outside chance of qualifying for the top eight and will need to win against the Brumbies to do that.

But they have a number of key players who are out again because of injuries including lock Scott Barrettm, centre Levi Aumua and Blindside flanker Ethan Blackadder.

Crusaders match-day 23: 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor (c), 3. Fletcher Newell, 4. Antonio Shalfoon, 5. Quinten Strange, 6. Cullen Frace, 7. Tom Christie, 8. Christian Lo-Willie, 9. Noah Hotham, 10. Fergus Burke, 11. Sevu Reece, 12. David Havili, 13. Jone Rova, 14. Chay Fihaki, 15. Johnny McNicholl; Reserves: 16. George Bell, 17. George Bower, 18. Seb Calder, 19. Jamie Hannah, 20. Dom Gardiner, 21. Mitch Drummond, 22. Rivez Reihana, 23. Macca Springer.

Brumbies match-day 23: 1.James Slipper, 2. Connal McInerney, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Nick Frost, 7.Jahrome Brown, 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Ryan Lonergan, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Ollie Sapsford, 12. Tamati Tua, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Wright; Reserves: 16. Liam Bowron, 17. Rhys van Nek, 18. Sosefo Kautai, 19. Tom Hooper, 20. Luke Reimer, 21. Harrison Goddard, 22. Jack Debreczeni, 23. Ben O'Donnell.

Captains of women 7s teams at the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland for the HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024 on the 16 May 2024. Photo Martin Seras Lima/World Rugby

Captains of women 7s teams at the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland for the HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024 on the 16 May 2024. Photo Martin Seras Lima/World Rugby Photo: Martin Seras Lima

Challenger series teams focus on getting to Madrid

The international rugby sevens action taking place on 18-19 May will see the top four placed men's and women's teams will secure a place in the new HSBC SVNS promotion and relegation play-off competition in Madrid on May 31 to June 2.

Uruguay men and China women lead the Challenger standings after two rounds in Dubai and Montevideo as the race to secure an all-important top four place reaches its climax this weekend.

Uruguay lead the men's standings on 36 points following victory on home soil in Montevideo to add to their bronze medal at the opening round in Dubai. Kenya were winners in Dubai and are in second place also on 36 points, ahead of Chile on 32 points and Germany on 26 points, who are narrowly ahead of Hong Kong China on points difference with all to play for in the final round in Munich.

China have proved to be the dominant team in the women's competition with a perfect 40 points after claiming gold in the first two rounds. Argentina are in second position on 34 points following silver in Montevideo and bronze in Dubai. Belgium and Uganda are third and fourth respectively, both on 28 points followed by Kenya on 24 points and Poland on 22 points who will both be looking to push for a top-four place in Krakow.

Men's leaders Uruguay are drawn in Pool A alongside hosts Germany, Georgia and Papua New Guinea. Hong Kong China will be looking to continue the fine form that saw them claim silver in Montevideo and will face Uganda, Tonga and Mexico in Pool B. Meanwhile Kenya, Chile, Portugal and Japan make up a tough looking Pool C.

Pacific teams Tonga and Papua New Guinea will feature there.

In the women's event leaders China will face Thailand, Hong Kong China and Czechia in Pool A. Second placed Argentina are in Pool B together with Uganda, Paraguay and Papua New Guinea. Pool C sees Belgium, Poland, Kenya and Mexico drawn together.

World Rugby said the Challenger tournaments replicate the Olympic Games competition format, with the 12 teams drawn into three pools of four teams each. The top two from each pool as well as the two best third-placed finishers will qualify for the knockout stages with quarter-finals and semi-finals leading to the third place and gold medal matches.

World Rugby Chief Competitions and Performance Officer Nigel Cass said there is more to play for in this year's Challenger with four men's and four women's teams having the opportunity to gain promotion to HSBC SVNS 2025 through the new promotion and relegation tournament in Madrid.

"The quality of competition across the first two rounds in Dubai and Montevideo has been excellent and we can expect more thrilling international rugby sevens, intense drama and end to end action in both Munich and Krakow this weekend.

"This year represents a step change for the Challenger as sevens continues to be at the forefront of rugby's global growth strategy. Our thanks and gratitude to the event hosts, our title partner HSBC and all other stakeholders for what promises to be an enthralling weekend of rugby sevens.".

Inexperienced PNG Pukpuks for sevens challenger event

Papua New Guinea will not have their best Pukpuks sevens team at the Sevens Challenger tournament in Germany this weekend.

The National newspaper reported on Thursday the country's rugby union have named a new-look men's sevens team with 11 debutants in the third leg of the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger Series on Saturday in Munich.

The report said the union have disbanded the team that took part in the second leg of the series in Montevideo, Uruguay, citing disciplinary issues.

PNGRU president Paul Siwi told The National yesterday that John Larry was appointed interim coach, while retaining the services of senior player Paul Peter Tono to lead the 12-man team.

"Ill-discipline is the reason why we had to drop them," Siwi said.

"They are relegated to the development squad. Few of them left to play rugby league," he said. "Nothing is permanent. Changes happen, we manage and move on."

Interim coach Larry told The National that the 11 players deserved a call-up for their commitment and dedication to training.

"These boys have done a really great job since being selected into the squad," Larry said.

"They were consistent with training and were patient despite missing out on selection in the first and second legs. Consistency speaks louder and these boys have done that."

PNG Pukpuks team to the Munich sevens: Lawrence Lamond, Jaybes Pangas, Bernard ToAlbert, Nashon Benjamin (forwards) Paul Peter Tono, Emmanuel Zoriry, Rex Peregua, Ben Lasiel, Bartholomew Levi (backs), Elipas Tataeng, Himson Tukar, Kolin Tokau.

Hill fights for world title in Nadi

Olympian and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Winston Hill will be fighting in front of home fans in Nadi this weekend as he chases a International Boxing Association title.

Hill fights Australia's Jyl Wright for the Asia Pacific-IBO welterweight title.

Speaking to the media in Fiji Hill said this will be his toughest fight yet and he wants Wright to test him in the ring.

The 30-year old has a 4-0 professional record.

Wright has a 6-1-1 record. That is six wins, 1 draw and a loss, according to the Tapology fight center records.

The Australian told the media he is looking forward to the fight and is not worried about the home crowd.

"I know what I have to do to get his decision and obviously the fan base is going to be at the top of it and hopefully by the end of it I have secured some more Fijian fans," the FBC reported.

He says they've been in a 10-week camp and completed 130 rounds of sparring sessions.

He added he is eager to see how Hill will handle his power, speed, and movements.

The South Pacific Boxing Promotion will start at 4pm Fiji Time on Saturday.

Part of the Ifira Black Bird team in Papeete. Photo: Ifira Black Bird

Part of the Ifira Black Bird team in Papeete. Photo: Ifira Black Bird Photo: Ifira Black Bird

Ifira Black Bird still without full team in Tahiti

Vanuatu soccer clubside Ifirab Black Bird do not have their full team yet at the OFC Men's Champions League in Tahiti.

Vanuatu Daily Post says only 12 players and the head coach, Yalou Robert, have made it to Papeete, because of flight disruptions.

Twelve other players and their assistant coach are at the OFC Academy in Auckland, awaiting the next available flight to Tahiti.

The side has become the victim of two current crisis hitting the Pacific.

The side were scheduled to be in Tahiti last week, for the OFC Men's Champions League, but they only arrived on Wednesday afternoon from Fiji, with seven players.

Five had arrived earlier in the weekend.

Trouble for them started when Air Vanuatu pulled the plug on flights when their aircrafts were grounded last week.

That forced the team to travel in different groups to Fiji, with scheduled onward flghts through Air Calin via Noumea.

But the recent upheaveals in New Caledonia forced the closure of the airport there and further delayed the team's arrival in Tahiti.

As a result the Oceania Football Confederation has had to change match schedules, with Ifira playing their first pool game on Friday and other pool matches on Saturday, May 18th and Monday, May 20th.

It means a tight turnaround time for the team, with the semifinals on May 22 and final on May 24

The team management told the Vanuatu Daily Post the players are challenged to remain focus on the task at hand.

"It's been a very challenging journey till date but the boys are focused and looking forward to the games. The situation is out of our control since the cancellation of Air Vanuatu flights," management said

"We thank you all for your patience and continued support and thankyou OFC for putting extra effort to try and get the Blackbird boys to the tournament."

Group A matches see Fiji's Rewa and defending champions Auckland City lead their side of the competition.

The two teams fought to a draw in their first pool match and then won their respective second round matches.

Group B matches has seen local side AS Pirae and New Caledonia club side AS Magneta record wins in their first pool games.

The Samoa Under-19 women's team that has won three matches at the ICC Under-19 women's EAP T20 qualifier in Bali, Indonesia this week. Photo: Samoa Cricket

The Samoa Under-19 women's team that has won three matches at the ICC Under-19 Women's EAP T20 qualifier in Bali, Indonesia this week. Photo: Samoa Cricket Photo: Samoa Cricket

Samoa wins three out of three in Bali

The Samoa Under-19 women's cricket team looks set to qualify from the ICC Under-19s Women's T20 East Asia Pacific World Cup Qualifier in Bali, Indonesia.

They have recorded wins against Fiji, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Samoa defeated Indonesia by two wickets, accounted for Fiji by 71 runs and beat PNG, winning by four wickets in the end.

PNG have one win over Fiji while Indonesia claimed victories over PNG and Fiji.

Fiji has not recorded a single win at the event.

Vanuatu volleyballers in China

The Vanuatu beach volleyball teams are competing at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures in Wuhan, China this weekend.

They started playing on Friday with play-offs scheduled for Saturday.

Two teams made up of Linline Matauatu and Majabelle Lawac, with Sherysyn Toko and Loti Joe, are scheduled to compete against some of the best from Asia at the event.

Coach Shanon Zunker is with the team as they round-ff preparation for the Continental Cup in June.

Vanuatu needs to win that competition to qualify for the Paris Olympics.