Both teams enter the match with just one win under their belt and are searching for a second to reignite their respective seasons. The match will be the start of a significant rivalry between the two Pacific Island teams.
Moana Pasifika winger Timoci Tavatavanawai is excited to play against his former Fiji Under 20 teammates and former boarding school roommate, Meli Derenalagi. “It’s going to be cool playing against the Drua boys, they’re like my brothers. I played with half of the team when I was younger. I’ve never played against them so it’s going to be interesting.
“My whole family back home in Fiji will be watching. They support Moana Pasifika and the Drua but they will be backing the Moana boys and I on Saturday.”
Head Coach Aaron Mauger has made several changes to his side that were defeated 26-20 by the Waratahs.
The front row remains consistent with Moana Pasifika’s top try-scorer Abraham Pole at loosehead prop, Ray Niuia at hooker and captain Sekope Kepu will play at tighthead.
Hard-working and versatile loose forward Michael Curry shifts into the locking position and Alex McRobbie is elevated from the bench to the starting lineup.
Sione Tu’ipulotu rejoins the match day 23 and is accompanied by Solomone Funaki and henry-Time stowers in the loosies.
Ereatara Enari will feed the ball to Lincoln McClutchie, who earns his first start since round 5. Head Coach Aaron Mauger has been impressed with McClutchie in his debut season.
“Christian has been in outstanding form but unfortunately hasn’t been able to train this week due to illness. We trust Lincoln to do the job so we have made an early call in the best interests of both Lincoln and the teams preparation,” says Mauger.
“Lincoln is a quality rugby player who has made big improvements during our campaign, we’re excited for him that he gets the opportunity to start and showcase his abilities from the first minute this week.”
A new look midfield combination will also be revealed on Saturday when Danny Toala pairs with block-busting centre, Solomone Kata. Both missed last week’s match due to illness.
Aaron Mauger says, “Danny comes back into the midfield after performing well in both the 12 and 15 jersey. His wide range of skills mean that he can play in multiple positions which gives us options when picking a backline each week, based on form and also the specifics in our game plan.”
“That position is at 12 this week and he forms an exciting combination with Solomone Kata who is hitting some strong form and deserves his start.”
Timoci Tavatavanawai and Tima Fainga’anuku have cemented their spots on the wing and will be joined by William Havili at fullback.
There is plenty of firepower to come from the bench with the experienced Jack Lam and Christian Leali’ifano to provide impact.
Levi Aumua and Samuel Slade have been stood down for a breach of team protocols and are not available for selection.
Unavailable due to injury or illness: Lotu Inisi, Isi Tu’ungafasi, Mike McKee, Don Lolo, Alamanda Motuga, Neria Foma’I, Anzelo Tuitavuiki.
Moana Pasifika v Fijian Drua
Saturday 14 May
Kick off 2.35pm local time
Sydney, CommBank Stadium
1. Abraham Pole
2. Ray Niuia
3. Sekope Kepu (C)
4. Michael Curry
5. Alex McRobbie
6. Sione Tu’ipulotu
7. Solomone Funaki
8. Henry Time-Stowers
9. Ereatara Enari
10. Lincoln McClutchie
11. Timoci Tavatavanawai
12. Danny Toala
13. Solomone Kata
14. Tima Fainga’anuku
15. William Havili
16. Samiuela Moli
17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth
18. Joe ‘Apikotoa
19. Veikoso Poloniati
20. Jack Lam
21. Jonathan Taumateine
22. Christian Leali’ifano
23. Henry Taefu