Moana Pasifika is a professional rugby union team that is part of the New Zealand Rugby Union and was founded in 2020. The side only comprises players from Pacific Island countries like Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, though this rule also extends to players born in New Zealand or Australia who are of Pasifika heritage.
The team was initially established for a one-off match against the Māori All Blacks in December 2020, with the future goal of joining the Super Rugby competition. The team played its first ever Super Rugby match on the 4th of March 2022.
Moana Pasifika is currently coached by Aaron Mauger, a New Zealand former professional rugby union player. Mauger was previously head coach of the Highlanders.
Moana Pasifika played against the Māori All Blacks on 5 December 2020. Their team consisted of New Zealand-based players who were international or sevens capped by a Pacific team or identified with a Pacific region. The match against the Māori All Blacks was played at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand, and Moana Pasifika lost the match in a relatively tight contest by a scoreline of 28–21.
After this match began Moana Pasifika’s journey of entering Super Rugby. From 2022 a new 12-team Super Rugby competition had been in the works and well before that in November 2020 the New Zealand Rugby Union had already announced that Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua were the sides it preferred to join the competition.
To follow up this announcement, the New Zealand Rugby Union agreed in March 2021 to share broadcast revenue with Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua. Soon after, World Rugby publicised their intention to offer financial and administrative support to both potential new sides. This was part of an effort improve the performances of the Pacific Islands at the international level and allow their players to play professional rugby union locally instead of needing to travel overseas to do so.
On 14 April 2021, the New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed Moana Pasifika’s conditional licence to join Super Rugby, and a few months later the team was granted an unconditional licence. This meant that they would join the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season as one of its new teams alongside Fijian Drua.
The side was later confirmed in August 2021 that they will enter the Super Rugby for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, starting with the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Moana Pasifika are based in South Auckland and are set to play their home fixtures at Mt Smart Stadium until 2028. Dynasty Sport is the supplier of the team’s kit. Aaron Mauger was announced as the team’s head coach on 30 September 2021.
On 15 November 2021, the schedule for the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season was announced, with Moana Pasifika’s first ever match against the Brumbies in Auckland.
On 2 February 2022, Sekope Kepu was named as the inaugural captain of the Moana Pasifika franchise.
Moana Pasifika played its first Super Rugby game on 4 March 2022. They lost the game 33–12 to a strong Crusaders side. Moana Pasifika soon won its first Super Rugby game against the Hurricanes at Mt Smart Stadium by a scoreline of 24-19.
In the 2022 season, Moana Pasifika finished 12th overall, failing to qualify for the playoffs. Still, they enjoyed some highlights in their first ever Super Rugby season, like beating the Brumbies in Round 15 by a scoreline of 32–22 at Mt Smart Stadium.
In 2023, Moana Pasifika’s original purpose was questioned by former All Black John Kirwan because of the All Blacks selecting players from the new team. This conflicts with the club’s original purpose to develop international Pacific Island players who would go on to represent their nations instead of New Zealand or Australia. Levi Aumua, one of the team’s best players, is eligible for multiple nations including Samoa, Fiji, and New Zealand. He was picked for the All Blacks starting 15.
Kirwan claimed that Moana Pasifika should base themselves in Apia, their roots, instead of Auckland. He also questioned why Aumua wasn’t available to play for Samoa or Tonga. Many players in the Moana Pasifika side are eligible to play for New Zealand, due to being born there, as well as Pacific nations, and this fact has clearly caused some controversy among some figures in the sport.
The Moana Pasifika squad for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season consists of the following players:
The coaching staff consists of the following:
Moana Pasifika play their home games at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. The stadium is also home to the rugby league team the New Zealand Warriors. It has a capacity of 30,000.
For everything you need to know about one of Super Rugby’s newest sides, including their upcoming fixtures and all the latest news, visit the Moana Pasifika website.