Moana Pasifika

Moana Pasifika ready to inject new energy into Super Rugby

While players were gradually revealed over the last six weeks, Monday marked another major milestone for Moana Pasifika as their first ever squad was confirmed, with former Highlanders and Crusaders outside back Tima Fainga'anuku completing the 38-man roster.

A Pacific Island franchise in Super Rugby has been a long time coming but having only been granted an unconditional licence in July, Moana Pasifika have worked around the clock to build the team from scratch.

Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua finalise squads

The squads were announced exclusively to fans over the past two months and were finalised alongside teams unveiled by New Zealand and Australia.

Moana Pasifika completed it's playing roster yesterday with the announcement of former Highlanders and Crusaders outside back, Tima Fainga'anuku.

The 38-man squad is brimming with international and domestic experience, including former Wallabies veterans Sekope Kepu and Christian Leali'ifano, alongside several sons of Samoa and Tonga's international sides.

NZ and Moana Super Rugby squads confirmed for 2022

Each of New Zealand's five Super Rugby Pacific squads have been bolstered by notable players who were plying their trade on foreign shores in 2021 including Beauden Barrett (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), TJ Perenara and Dominic Bird (Hurricanes), Pablo Matera (Crusaders) and Marty Banks and Rhys Marshall (Highlanders).

There has also been some movement on the transfer market with 12 players making a move between New Zealand's five clubs, and a further nine players moving to a newly minted Moana Pasifika squad featuring Wallabies veterans Sekope Kepu and Christian Lealifano.

Moana Pasifika's Christian Leali'ifano excited to face former side

But the star signing for Moana Pasifika's inaugural Super Rugby Pacific campaign didn't think it would be in week one.

"There's no hiding now," he joked over the phone from Canberra, where he is in the process of packing up his life before making the big move to Auckland with his family.

"It will be cool - I'm really excited that it's going to be round one and first game for Moana and who better than my old team.

"It's a club that's been a big part of my life and a club that's always going to be really special to me as well."

Newcomers kick off Super Rugby Pacific

The draw for the 15-week regular season, announced on Monday, gives teams a total of 14 matches. These are made up of 11 round-robin fixtures plus the introduction of three additional rivalry matches which will see each team play a home and away series against three other teams.

The top eight teams will join a play-off series in the first week of June. The final is scheduled for 18 June.

New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum said the draw was easy to understand and a level playing field for the teams involved.

'We're going to give it everything' - Moana Pasifika's road to Super Rugby

The Auckland-based franchise will join an expanded competition next year alongside the Fijian Drua and five teams each from New Zealand and Australia.

Head coach Aaron Mauger has been working from his Dunedin home since Tāmaki Makaurau went into lockdown in August, focused on player and staff recruitment and planning the team's first pre-season campaign.

"It's nice, every time we have a management meeting each week there seems to be another person popping on, so that group's growing and they're really critical to helping build our programme."

Filo Tiatia joins Moana Pasifika as assistant coach

He plied his trade in New Zealand, Wales and Japan during a 19 year professional rugby career, including 57 appearance for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby.

Tiatia also has 14 years of professional coaching experience, including stints in charge of Toyota Verblitz and the Sunwolves Super Rugby franchise in Japan, and as an assistant coach with Auckland and the Japanese national team.

The 50 year old will be in charge of the forwards with Moana Pasifika and has already begun working alongside head coach Aaron Mauger.

Actor KJ Apa becomes Moana Pasifika's first official fan

The 24 year-old Riverdale star is the nephew of Moana Pasifika Trust chair and Samoan and All Blacks rugby legend Savae Sir Michael Jones.

With ties to the villages of Moata'a and Nuusuatia in Samoa, where his father Tupa'i Keneti Apa was bestowed his paramount chiefly title, Apa was a talented rugby player at high school before making it big in Hollywood.

The US-based actor said he will be supporting Moana Pasifika from afar and hopes to head home to New Zealand to catch a game as soon as he can.

Moana Pasifika confirm signing of Wallabies centurion Sekope Kepu

A veteran of 16 years of professional rugby experience, Kepu joins the new expansion side from Counties Manukau after joining the province for the 2021 NPC season.

The Covid-19 outbreak in New Zealand’s northern regions in recent months restricted the 35-year-old to just two appearances for the Steelers before Counties Manukau, as well as Auckland and North Harbour, were omitted from the remainder of the provincial campaign.

Crusaders half-back is the second player to sign with Moana Pasifika

The 24-year-old has five Super Rugby titles under his belt and is currently playing for Hawke's Bay in New Zealand's domestic National Provincial Championship competition.

Enari joins former Wallabies first five Christian Leali'ifano who was confirmed as Moana Pasifika's first major signing on Thursday.

Two more players are expected to be announced today.