Highlanders likely to return to Pacific Islands for May game

Folau Fakatava. Photo: Getty
Folau Fakatava. Photo: Getty
The Highlanders appear to be heading back to the Pacific Islands next season.

That seems to be the only conclusion to be drawn from news out of the Moana Pasifika camp yesterday.

The Auckland-based club confirmed all but one of their six "home" venues for the 2024 campaign.

One game — that against the Highlanders on May 4 — still has "to be announced soon" next to it.

Moana Pasifika did, however, confirm the Highlanders clash would be at a new venue outside New Zealand.

That presumably means either Samoa or Tonga.

Given Apia has already hosted a Super Rugby game, between the Pasifika team and the Reds last year, it could mean the Highlanders are heading to Nuku’alofa.

It will not be a completely new experience for the Highlanders, who went to the
islands last year to play the Fijian Drua in Suva.

It could be an emotional occasion for Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava, who was born in Nuku’alofa.

Moana Pasifika, who have battled to three wins from their first 28 games in Super Rugby, will continue their peripatetic existence next year.

Their first home game will be at North Harbour Stadium, the Easter derby with the Blues is at Eden Park, they play the Reds in Whangarei, they have two games at Mt Smart Stadium, and they are technically a home team at the super round in Melbourne.

Oddly, Moana Pasifika’s historic first Super Rugby game was in Dunedin — against the Crusaders in March 2022, during Covid restrictions.

Their other six games in their debut season were at Mt Smart, while this year they played five at that ground along with games in Melbourne and Apia.

 - Defending champions Matatu will open the 2024 Super Rugby Aupiki season with a home game against the Blues at a venue to be confirmed on March 2.

A complicating factor in the draw could be the Pink concert at Forsyth Barr Stadium just three days later.

Matatu then play three consecutive away games before hosting the Hurricanes Poua and Chiefs Manawa in Christchurch.