Sport | Super Rugby

Moana Pasifika to host Highlanders in historic Super Rugby clash in Tonga

Te’ufaiva Stadium in Nuku’alofa has been confirmed as the venue for a Moana Pasifika home game in the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific competition on Saturday, May 4 next year.

That will be another piece of history for both the Auckland-based franchise and the Tonga Rugby Union (TRU).

Moana Pasifika will face the Highlanders in the first Super Rugby Pacific game played in Tonga.

Tonga Rugby Union president and Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni said in a joint Moana Pasifika and TRU statement on Wednesday that they recognise the significance the game will have for rugby in Tonga and what it means for the local community.

“I am very happy as I am sure all Tongans are, to have Moana Pasifika right here in the kingdom,” Hu’akavameiliku said.

“We look forward to continuing to demonstrate that we can host these international games.”

Tonga delighted

Moana Pasifika said it would be exciting taking its squad to Tonga, with 19 of the 38-man playing squad of Tongan descent.

This includes 110-test Australian international Sekope Kepu, who hails from the villages of Leimatu’a (Vava’u), Niuafo’ou and ‘Eua.

TRU managing director Aisea Aholelei said Tonga is looking forward to hosting the game.

“It has been a long overdue event in the hearts and minds of locals to host Super Rugby Pacific, because of the prominence of Tongan players in Super Rugby and in Moana Pasifika,” Aholelei said.

Other Tongan players on Moana Pasifika’s roster include outside back Fine Inisi, and younger brother, loose forward Lotu Inisi who are foundation players.

It also includes playmaker William Havili, flanker Sione Havili Talitui and 2023 stand-in captain Solomone Funaki.

Moana Pasifika chairman La’auili Savae Sir Michael Jones said taking the game to Tonga was well-deserved by local fans there and the match would be a timely boost for the growth and further development of rugby in Tonga and across the Pacific.

‘About opportunity and hope’

“We are extremely privileged and excited to bring the very first Super Rugby game to Tonga,” he said.

“Our Tongan people are some of the most passionate and loyal supporters.

“They deserve this fixture being played on home soil and to have the opportunity to watch their Moana Pasifika rugby heroes representing them live at their beloved Teufaiva Stadium.

“For us, this game is about opportunity and hope. We want to build on the excellent momentum of the ‘Ikale Tahi made of late, particularly at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.”

Moana Pasifika chief executive officer Pelenato Sakalia said the match would give Tongan players the chance to showcase their talents in front of their families and fans.

“It’s always been part of our mission to take games to the Pacific, to invest in these communities and give our fans in the Islands the chance to watch the team in their own backyard,” Sakalia said.

“It shows them what’s possible and allows our players to showcase their talent in front of their families.”

The franchise team had played their first home game in the South Pacific this year when they played the Reds at Apia Park in May.

Tickets for the May 4 clash will be released for sale in the new year.