Auckland to host Pasifika rugby double-header at Eden Park
- The Pasifika Challenge returns to Eden Park this year for a blockbuster doubleheader in the event’s second iteration – Pasifika Challenge II The Road to Japan
- Tonga (Ikale Tahi) will play Fiji Airways Flying Fijians, with Manu Samoa facing off against New Zealand Heartland XV
In a sporting coup for Auckland, the best rugby players from the Pacific Islands will descend on the iconic Eden Park, Saturday August 31 for a blockbuster international rugby doubleheader. Manu Samoa battles New Zealand Heartland XV and Ikale Tahi takes on Fiji Airways Flying Fijians in the Pasifika Challenge II – The Road to Japan.
Event organisers, Left Field Live, are looking forward to a vibrant and loud atmosphere in an event that will celebrate the best things of all things Pasifika. The double-header will also serve as an important additional fixture ahead of Japan and another great opportunity for supporters to come and out support their team.
NZR Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass said: “We are delighted to support this fixture as a great display of Pasifika rugby. New Zealand prides itself in having close ties with our Pacific Island neighbours, and this match is a great way to celebrate rugby in the Pacific and in our Heartland provinces.”
General Public tickets will go on-sale at 10:00am on Monday June 17.
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development General Manager Destination, Steve Armitage, says, “this is yet another occasion to acknowledge our place as a city of the Pacific, highlighting our status as the largest Polynesian city in the world by providing a stage for our Pasifika communities to come together to support and celebrate their teams.”
“We expect fans based in Auckland and beyond will jump at the chance to see this exciting double header at Eden Park.”
Ticket prices have been set at a fan-friendly rate of between $25 – $65 with kick off times scheduled for 2pm and 4:30pm to ensure as many rugby fans and families have the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle.
Teams competing in the Pasifika Challenge II The Road to Japan will not only just benefit from having an additional opportunity to fine tune their playbook before the global showcase, the event will also serve as a way to generate additional financial support for the participating Teams.
In addition to funding the Teams participation in the Event and the Players allowances for their time, event organisers have promised the Teams an added financial incentive based on the final crowd attracted to the game. A sell-out crowd on Saturday August 31 will deliver the strongest possible financial windfall for the three Pacific Island teams who each share in this upside equally. Fans are urged to show their support for the Teams by cheering them on from the Eden Park stands.
The Pasifika Challenge 2017 saw Ikale Tahi go down in a gutsy performance against Wales and Manu Samoa come-up short versus a strong New Zealand All Black side in front of 30,000 passionate fans. The vocal fans added to an already electric atmosphere in a night that celebrated the Pasifika cultures in New Zealand. Teams will again showcase their cultural heritage performing their pre-match challenges to the opposition; Siva Tau (Manu Samoa), Sipi Tau (Ikale Tahi), Cibi (Fiji Airways Flying Fijians) and Haka (Heartland XV).
New Zealand Heartland XV will play first against Manu Samoa in what promises to be a fast-paced and physical match. Recently appointed Manu Samoa Head Coach, Steve Jackson, will be looking to the match as an opportunity to build-on performances from the Pacific Nation’s Cup.
“This is another great opportunity for our squad to get together and finalise preparations for Japan. We are a very close group and any opportunity to come together to work on both on-field executions as well as the equally important off-field culture is something we all jump at” said Steve Jackson, Manu Samoa Head Coach.
Heartland XV Head Coach Mark Rutene said Heartland players would welcome the opportunity to play in black. “We look forward to challenging ourselves against a top 20 side and one that is extremely physical and plays the game at a fast pace. We will have the best players from across the Heartland unions coming together and is another great opportunity to reward players for strong seasons in their provincial colours” said Heartland XV Head Coach, Mark Rutene.
Concluding the double-header will be Ikale Tahi taking on Fiji Airways Flying Fijians. With such a large Pacific Island population based in Auckland and it’s surrounding areas, organisers are anticipating an atmosphere that rivals the best of international rugby in Nuku’alofa, Apia and Suva combined with the added spice of a very special rugby occasion for the New Zealand Heartland XV, as they play on the big stage.
“We love playing at Eden Park as the support we get is fantastic. The boys are really excited to play in front of their family and friends in what will be an extremely important fixture for us on the road to Japan” said Toutai Kefu, Ikale Tahi Head Coach.
“This match against Tonga at Eden Park is very important for the Flying Fijians in our build up towards Japan. We take some self-belief from our victory over France in Paris in November but certainly have not forgotten Tonga’s win over us in Lautoka in June 2018. 31 August will be a great day for Pacific Rugby and vitally important for us as our last match before Japan” said John McKee, Flying Fijians Head Coach.