Pasifika Sipoti – a preview of weekend sports

Drua face the cold in must win game

The cold in Dunedin will be tougher than the heat in Lautoka.

That is what the Fijian Drua will expect when the teams battle in Round 14 of the Super Rugby Pacific competition.

Head coach Mick Byrne knows the cold is going to be their biggest challenge.

But he said that will not be an excuse as they had hosted overseas teams at Churchill Park in the heat.

Both the teams will be looking for a win to keep their spots in the top eight.

While the Highlanders are at seventh with 23 points, Drua sit at eighth with two points short.

Interestingly the two teams are not the only ones looking for a win to stay in the top eight.

Western Force lurk behind the Drua with 19 points and have a chance to displace the Fijian side if they get to win their last two games.

Byrne knows the equation for his side.

“We have to win our last two games,” he said.

“We are in the top eight and we just have to keep winning.”

So Drua must beat the Highlanders on Sunday first, before they can think of defeating the Rebels in Lautoka next week.

If they lose then they must win against the Rebels.

And if the Force wins this weekend it will mean the Drua will drop to number nine.

Flyhalf Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula will lead the side’s play with the man he replaced as the number one at 10, Caleb Muntz, named at reserve.

Caleb Muntz back for the Drua this weekend. Photo: Fijian Drua

Muntz’s last match was the Test between the Flying Fijians and England at Twickenham on August 26, 2023 and is returning to action after recovering from injury.

Byrne said facing the cold just means his players will have to focus for the full 80 minutes.

He knows the Highlanders will be tough at home.

“They will be tough and physical,” he said.

He added defense, which he was happy with against the Reds last weekend, will be a key factor for them if they are to stop their hosts from winning.

“We kept getting off the line and making good tackles, led by the skipper,” he said.

“We got two or three forced turnovers and that’s really good and I think that is a credit to the players around the defensive aspects of their game.”

The Highlanders will have three players of Fijian heritage in their starting lineup.

The back trio of wingers Jona Nareki, Timoci Tavatavanawai plus fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens will be key for the side.

Fijians down South are expected to turn up for the 2.05pm clash at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

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. Kemu Valetini, 13. Iosefo Masi, 14. Selestino Ravutaumada, 15. Ilaisa Droasese; Reserves – 16. Zuriel Togiatama, 17. Emosi Tuqiri, 18. Samu Tawake, 19. Leone Rotuisolia, 20. Vilive Miramira, 21. Peni Matawalu, 22. Caleb Muntz, 23. Taniela Rakuro.

Highlanders match-day 23: 1. Ethan de Groot (co-c),2. Henry Bell, 3. Jermaine Ainsley, 4. Mitch Dunshea, 5. Fabian Holland, 6. Oliver Haig, 7. Sean Withy, 8. Billy Harmon (co-c), 9. Folau Fakatava, 10. Ajay Falegaga, 11. Jona Nareki, 12. Sam Gilbert, 13. Jake Te Hiwi, 14. Timoci Tavatavanawai, 15. Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens; Reserves – 16. Jack Taylor, 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18. Saula Ma’u, 19. Max Hicks, 20. Nikora Broughton, 21. James Arscott, 22. Matt Whaanga, 23. Connor Garden-Bachop.

Moana Pasifika players rounding off their preparations for the Waratahs in Auckland.

Moana eyes win for Kepu

Inaugural Moana Pasifika Captain and 110-test Australian international Sekope Kepu will have the chance to play against his former Waratahs mate this weekend.

Having announced his retirement from professional rugby at the end of the 2024 season, Kepu has been named on the bench for the Pasifika side in Auckland on Saturday.

The 38-year-old made his Super Rugby debut with the Waratahs and his Wallabies debut in 2008, winning a title with the Waratahs in 2014 and playing in three Rugby World Cups.

He played for the Waratahs from 2008-2019 before being named as Moana Pasifika captain in 2022.

“I’m focused on finishing off the 2024 season strong with Moana Pasifika,” he said on Friday.

Moana Pasifika has dropped to 11th on the points standing, after having a brief dance in the top eight.

Waratahs are at the bottom.

A win against the New South Wales franchise will be a good swansong for the tough Tongan.

Head coach Fa’alogo Tana Umaga has named a strong match-day 23 for this weekend.

He has named a mostly unchanged side for their final home game .

The only change in the starting lineup sees Aisea Halo promoted from the bench to start at halfback.

Tomasi Maka, Siaosi Nginingini and Henry Taefu have also been named to bring impact off the bench.

Moana Pasifika are looking to build on their efforts in a physical matchup with the Hurricanes last weekend.

“We were pleased with the way our boys fronted against a tough Hurricanes side. Now they’ll have a chance to be better against the Waratahs,” Umaga said.

“This week provides a new challenge and being our last home game, I know the boys will want to go out there and put out a good performance for our fans.”

The previous two encounters between the teams saw each win one. In 2022, the Waratahs won 26-20 and last year Moana Pasifika secured victory 33-24.

It will provide added motivation with both sides looking to clinch the extra win.

The match kicks off at 4.35pm (NZ Time) on Saturday at the Go Media Stadium.

Moana Pasifika match-day 23: 1. Abraham Pole, 2. Samiuela Moli, 3. Sione Mafileo, 4. Tom Savage, 5. Allan Craig, 6. Jacob Norris, 7. Sione Havili Talitui (c), 8. Lotu Inisi, 9. Aisea Halo, 10. William Havili, 11. Neria Fomai, 12. Julian Savea, 13. Pepesana Patafilo, 14. Fine Inisi, 15. Danny Toala; Reserves – 16. Tomasi Maka, 17. Tevita Langi, 18. Sekope Kepu, 19. Ola Tauelangi, 20. Alamanda Motuga, 21. Siaosi Nginingini, 22. Christian Lealiifano, 23. Henry Taefu.

Waratahs match-day 23: 1. Harry Lloyd, 2. Jay Fonokalafi, 3. Brad Amituanai, 4. Jed Holloway, 5. Hugh Sinclair, 6. Ned Hanigan, 7. Charlie Gamble, 8. Langi Gleeson, 9. Jake Gordon (c), 10. Tane Edmed, 11. Dylan Pietsch, 12. Lalakai Foketi, 13. Joey Walton, 14. Izaia Perese, 15. Mark Nawaqanitawase; Reserves – 16. Ben Sugars, 17. Lewis Ponini, 18. Michael Scott, 19. Miles Amatosero, 20. Fergus Lee-Warner, 21. Jack Grant, 22. Jack Bowen, 23. Vuate Karawalevu.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders have named a strong team to face the Blues at the Apollo Projects Stadium in Christchurch at 7.05pm on Saturday.

The Blues are already confirmed a home quarterfinal, leading the competition going into the last two rounds.

Crusaders, meanwhile, are sitting at 10th, and will need a win to stay off the bottom ranks.

Crusaders match-day 23: 1.Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor (c), 3. Fletcher Newell, 4. Antonio Shalfoon, 5. Quinten Strange, 6. Cullen Grace, 7. Ethan Blackadder, 8. Christian Lio-Willie, 9. Noah Hotham, 10. Fergus Burke, 11. Sevu Reece, 12. David Havili, 13. Levi Aumua, 14. Chay Fihaki, 15. Johnny McNicholl; Reserves – 16. George Bell, 17. George Bower, 18. Tamaiti Williams, 19. Jamie Hannah, 20. Tom Christie, 21. Mitch Drummond, 22. Taha Kemara, 23. Dallas McLeod.

Blues match-day 23: 1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2. Kurt Eklund, 3. Angus Ta’avao, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 5. Sam Darry, 6. Akira Ioane, 7. Adrian Choat, 8. Hoskins Sotutu, 9. Taufa Funaki, 10. Harry Plummer, 11. AJ Lam, 12. Corey Evans, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Mark Tele’a, 15. Stephen Perofeta; Reserves – 16. Ricky Riccitelli, 17. Joshua Fusitu’a, 18. PJ Sheck, 19. Josh Beehre, 20. Cameron Suafoa, 21. Sam Nock, 22. Cole Forber, 23. Caleb Tangitau.

Oceania nations chase Women’s RWC 2025 qualification

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 and WXV 3 2024 qualification will be up for grabs as the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship gets played out in Brisbane, Australia.

Samoa head into the tournament as defending champions having edged Fiji to last year’s title, Cassie Siataga scoring all of her side’s points in a 19-18 victory in the decisive match.

Manusina will again meet Fijiana in the final fixture of the 2024 edition on Sunday, 2 June after they have each played Tonga and Papua New Guinea at Sunnybank Rugby Club in Brisbane.

Whoever finishes top of the standings at the end of the round-robin tournament will secure their place at Women’s RWC 2025 in England.

Due to Samoa finishing sixth in WXV 2 2023, the champions and runners-up will both travel to Dubai to take part in WXV 3 this September and October.

Fijiana’s bid to regain the title they last won in 2022 and seal their place at a second successive Women’s Rugby World Cup will kick-off against Tonga..

Fiji cannot improve their rating in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings with victory in the opening match due to the 15.52-point gap between the teams.

However, they could drop as low as 19th in the rankings on Monday should they slip up. In that scenario, Tonga would climb above Colombia and Belgium to an all-time high of 25th.

Tonga have lost all four of their previous meetings with Fijiana by an average score of 46-6. Ana Maria Naimasi scored a hat-trick of tries as Fiji ran out 45-12 in last year’s Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship.

Fijiana’s new coach Mosese Rauluni will not take anything for granted in Brisbane but made no secret of his team’s desire to reach another showpiece tournament.

“It’s a very important competition we are going into. Our main objective is to qualify for the World Cup,” Rauluni said.

“Our first big test is against Tonga. The main goal is to win every game; we can’t take any team lightly.

“Tonga is a very strong team. They have a lot of girls playing in New Zealand and Australia, so their time together will be short, but when they play for their country, they will give their all.”

In the second match of the opening day at Sunnybank Rugby Club, Samoa will begin their title defence against Papua New Guinea.

Samoa cannot improve their rating due to the distance between the teams in the rankings. However, they would slip three places – and below Fiji – should they lose to Papua New Guinea for the first time.

An upset victory for Papua New Guinea could lift them as many as seven places and back into the top 50 depending on their winning margin.

Samoa have won all four meetings between the sides to date by an average score of 74-14. Hasting Leiataua and Michelle Curry each scored two of Manusina’s 13 tries as the champions won the corresponding fixture last year 83-0.

Fixtures for the week:Friday, 24 May – Fiji v Tonga, Samoa v Papua New Guinea; Wednesday, 29 May – Fiji v Papua New Guinea, Samoa v Tonga; Sunday, 2 June – Tonga v Papua New Guinea, Samoa v Fiji.

Fijian and Tongan boxers eye Olympic spots

Fiji and Tonga have five boxers each competing for Paris Olympics spots this weekend.

The boxers are competing at the 2024 Boxing 2nd World Qualification tournament in Thailand, which kicked off on Friday night (NZ Time).

Tonga Boxing says three male and two female boxers are carrying the island kingdom’s hopes.

The team is coached by Doug Viney and includes middleweight Taufa Lavemaau, light heavyweight Roman Viney, super heavyweight Geroge Hola and Fe’ofa’aki Epenisa in the 54kg plus Eseta Flint in the 71kg.

Fijian female boxer Jasmine Daunakamakama.

Daunakamakama first Fijian female to box

Nineteen year old Jasmine Daunakamakama will be Fiji’s first female boxer Fiji to fight on an international boxing stage.

Daunakamakama the number one ranked female boxer in Fiji and was selected following her top performances.

The team, led by national coach Cam Todd, departed Nadi on Monday.

Todd told The Fiji Times he was confident of his boxers’ chances.

“I got five boxers over, Nehaal Chand at 51kg, Jone Davule at 57kg, Elia Rokobuli at 63.5kg, Aminiasi Saratibau at 80kg and I think Fiji’s first ever female representative at international, Jasmine Daunakamakama at 57kg,” Todd said.

Davule, Saratibau, Rokobuli and Chand represented Fiji at the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands where they all returned with medals.

“It’s a world event so all the countries that haven’t qualified from their regions will be in this one. It’s going to be a very hard event, it will be pretty full on, but our boxers need to be at this event,” Todd added.

Quota places will be on offer across 13 weight classes, six for women and seven for men, at the Indoor Stadium Huamark in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Vanuatu beach volleyball squad in Brisbane. Photo: Vanuatu Beach Volleyball

Vanuatu beach volleyball team focused

Vanuatu Volleyball’s final preparation camps, before tackling June’s semi-final phase of the Olympic qualifier, continues in Australia this weekend.

The two teams competed at the FIVB World Beach Pro Tour Futures events in Pingtan and Wuhan, China over the past two weekends.

The teams finished 4th and ninth overall at both events.

Coach Shanon Zunker,was pleased with some of the positives he saw starting to emerge, with skills practiced in training being implemented in play during competition.

“We are starting to see a little more of our focused skills practised at training, implemented into games, which are then converted into points won – points won in new ways than what the girls are used to,” he said.

“Making the semi-finals is a great testament to our program and reinforces that our plan is working, we just need to do more of it.

“Under high levels of pressure, the girls are still learning to trust the new skills, which takes some time for any athlete.”

Also pleasing for the coach was the opportunity to play more of the teams from the Continental zone.

“Exposure to several of our regional opposition teams was also a valuable exercise, as we are more experienced in the style of play from the Chinese, Indonesian and Thailand teams, who will all be at the Continental Cup finals,” Zunker said.

The team is now back in its final training camp period in Brisbane, looking to build mental strength and confidence in the lead up to the Olympic qualifying finals next month.

“As their coach, I regularly witness them match the skills of all the other international teams, and it is their own belief in themselves that will ultimately produce their best performance.”

The AVC Continental Cup semi-final will take place in Ningbo, China from June 16 to 18.

Vanuatu will come up against Hong Kong, Indonesia, Qatar and Kyrgyzstan.

Fiji league side still learning

Fiji Airways Kaiviti Silktails coach Wes Naiqama says consistency is an issue for them in the Jersey Flegg Cup this season.

But he told FBC Sports players turn up every week giving their best for the team.

The Silktails are still chasing their first win in the competition.

They meet the Newcastle Knights on Saturday at 3pm, Fiji time.

Naiqama says it’s disappointing to see results not going their way.

“It’s been a tough initiation for our boys, the results have not gone our way but I said week after week that it’s not the lack of effort, the boys are deploying themselves,” he said.

“But there are periods of games where we are really good and other periods where we are not so great.”

He added the break they had last week after the first 10 rounds of matches as helped.

AS Pirae's Alvin Tehau Rewa FC's Tevita Waranaivalu Rewa FC's Leon Kofana. OFC Men's Champions League 2024, Semi Final 2, AS Pirae v Rewa FC, Stade Pater, Tahiti, Wednesday 22 May 2024. Photo: Shane Wenzlick /

Auckland City and AS Pirae clash in OFC final.

Auckland City will be aiming to win their 12th title when they meet AS Pirae in Papeete on Saturday in the 2024 OFC Champions League final.

The two sides have emerged the best of the lot, winning their semi-final games on Thursday.

Local side AS Pirae defeated Rewa 4-2.

Two late penalties – both scored in second-half stoppage-time – seemed to be enough to send Vatea Terai’s side into the final before a 99th minute goal from Rewa forced extra-time.

AS Pirae then struck twice in extra-time to ensure they will face Auckland City.

Auckland City had defeated New Caledonian side AS Magenta 1-0.

The win means the City team will have the chance of extending their winning run.

AS Pirae will also have the chance to create history if they win their first title.

Meanwhile, losing Rewa coach Roderick Singh says he was proud of his players.

Singh says the team did their best.

“There’s nothing to take away from the boys,” he said.

“They absolutely did what they could, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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