Mitre 10 Cup foes set to become Moana Pasifika friends

November 28, 2020

Salesi Rayasi (left) and Leicester Fainga'anuku (right) are set to become Moana Pasifika teammates.

By Elijah Fa'afiu - elijah.fa'

When the Mitre 10 Cup competition wraps up this evening, Salesi Rayasi and Leicester Fainga’anuku will turn their attention to next week’s Moana Pasifika game against the Maori All Blacks.

Tonight’s final will feature the two wingers, who have both been named in the combined team made up of Samoan, Tongan and Fijian players.

“I was ecstatic to be selected into the squad because it’s an exhibition match. It’s almost similar to the Pacific Islanders team that was made in 2004 but I’m really excited for that,” says Rayasi.

The Auckland winger, who has Fijian and Samoan heritage, says his nana was very happy when she heard her grandson had made the Pasifika team.

“She's been calling my phone non-stop asking how I got the phone call and asking if I was expecting a phone call and so she’s been all over it,” Rayasi says. 

“She’s been listening to the radio and she’s also been trying to organise herself to try and come to the game as well.”

It will be a family affair for Rayasi when Moana Pasifika and the Maori All Blacks square off, as he’s set to line up against his cousin Shaun Stevenson.

“I think there’s an extra factor as well to that, so from our perspective it’ll be a pretty big family outing, they’re all kind of getting behind it trying to organise rides and accommodation and ticketing as well but think it’s safe to say me and Shaun will probably look after that.

“I’m pretty excited to be playing against Shauny and play for my Pasifika community, my Fijian side and my Samoan side, trying to give back to the community and trying to say thank you as well.”

For Tasman winger Leicester Fainga’anuku, he’s also excited about representing his heritage.

“I was hearing about it a few weeks ago and for that to become a reality is quite cool and even better being named in it to be able to go out there and represent the people of the Tongan community.

“I think it’s a massive impact for the Pacific community to be able to showcase what New Zealand has, especially with the Pasifika boys they have here.”

Fainga’anuku plans to use the Moana Pasifika experience to learn more about his Tongan background, as well as learning about the other cultures on the team.

“Heading into the Moana campaign next week, it’s all about just learning and reconnecting with my Tongan heritage and hopefully getting out there on Saturday and being able to represent.”

When asked about squaring off with Rayasi in tonight’s final and then becoming teammates with him the next week, Fainga’anuku says: “I haven’t really thought too much about it. I just know this weekend, there’s no friends on the park, but coming into next week, we can be friends and do our thing hopefully.”