Moana Pasifika make three changes for first home game

Moana Pasifika have made three changes to their run-on team for this weekend's rescheduled Super Rugby Pacific clash against the Chiefs at Mount Smart Stadium.

Sione Tu'ipulotu will make his debut on the blindside flank, with fellow 'Ikale Tahi international Solomone Funaki switching to the openside in place of Manu Samoa loose forward Alamanda Motuga, who is sidelined with a wrist injury.

There's also a new pairing in the halves with Samoa's Jonathan Taumateine and former Wallabies pivot Christian Leali'ifano taking the reins from Ereatara Enari and Lincoln McClutchie.

Moana Pasifika held their own in their debut match against the Crusaders in round three, scoring the opening try in the 33-12 defeat.

With three games already postponed because of Covid-19, the newcomers were meant to play the Highlanders on Friday night but outbreaks in Blues, Highlanders, and Crusaders squads have forced another change to the schedule.

Saturday's home clash against the Chiefs enables Moana to catch up their postponed fixture from round two. With a further three games rescheduled games to fit in the calendar, coach Aaron Mauger felt it was important to rotate some key players.

"Although we have had plenty of disruptions recently we felt it was important to stick to our original plan and give Christian and JT the opportunity to start this week," he said.

"They have both proven they are up for that challenge and we know that Ere and Lincoln will give us what we need later on the game in any given circumstance."

Mauger said the squad is looking forward to playing their first match at home, albeit without a crowd.

"We were excited to play the Hurricanes (last week) and would have benefited from the experience, but the right call was made to protect player welfare," he said.

"This week we were preparing to play the Highlanders on Friday, instead we look forward to facing the challenge that the Chiefs will bring on our home ground.

"We have been focusing on fine tuning our execution. In the second half against the Crusaders, we had opportunities to put them under pressure and they started to feel it as well. We will be sharper this week against the Chiefs and will keep getting better."

Sekope Kepu will once again captain the team from tighthead prop while Hawke's Bay Magpies loose forward Josh Kaifa is poised to make his debut off the bench.