Highlanders' Fiji game 'not about cashing in'

Roger Clark.
Roger Clark.
The Highlanders are not turning their back on Invercargill and will play a big match in the city next year.

The franchise announced yesterday it will play the Chiefs in Suva on June 30, a first for the side, which has not played a competitive game in the Pacific Islands.

The Crusaders and Chiefs have played in Suva over the past two years and the Highlanders have now taken up the opportunity to play in Fiji.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said playing a game in Fiji was not a case of the owner taking his team to the island to cash in.

Clark said the clash came about through ticketing business Fortress Information Systems having an agreement with the Fijian Government to bring a Super Rugby game to the island.

The Highlanders were extended an invitation to take a match to Fiji and have simply taken up the invitation.

Fortess Information Systems is a company in which the majority owner is Matthew Davey, who is also a part-owner of the Highlanders.

Clark said it was commercially attractive to play the game in Fiji but he declined to say how much money the franchise was making out of the game.

Clark said the game was an exciting one for the Highlanders and was not a chance for Davey to line his pockets.

''He could have taken us over there in the last two years but we have not gone. But the opportunity has come up this year and we have decided to take it up.''

Clark said the Highlanders would run the game so would have a big crew in Fiji. Sponsors would also go along.

Fijian wingers Waisake Naholo and Tevita Nabura are members of the Highlanders and it would be a great experience for the duo to return home and play.

The Highlanders will fly to Suva two days before the Saturday game while the Chiefs will arrive in Fiji on the Wednesday.

The Highlanders will come back on the Sunday and prepare for a game against the Crusaders which is set for the following Friday in Christchurch, giving the side a tight turnaround.

The move to Suva gives Dunedin seven home games for the season while Invercargill will not host a game.

Clark said he had talked to the Invercargill City Council about the decision and the Highlanders would play another New Zealand team in the city next year.

''The quality of that game and opponent will be right up there and we are still looking at getting a game to be played there in June.''

The Highlanders usually have a game in the June window, in which the Super Rugby competition is taking a break, to get the players up to speed and have played the Crusaders in the past couple of years in first Oamaru and then Timaru.

The franchise played one game in Invercargill last year and one in 2016. A crowd of 6000 turned up to last year's game in Invercargill between the Highlanders and the Sunwolves.

Clark said going to Suva was not about the crowd for the last game in Invercargill. The Chiefs game was simply the most attractive game for the Fijians.

The Invercargill City Council was asked for comment yesterday but did not respond.

Add a Comment