Accolades for Fijian Super Rugby host

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama presents a gift to Pulse Energy Highlanders coach and former All Blacks Aaron Mauger after the Super Rugby clash on Saturday. Picture: FIJIAN GOVERNMENT/FACEBOOK

FIJI has been billed as a great Super Rugby match host after the Pulse Energy Highlanders hosted the Gallagher Chiefs at the ANZ Stadium in Suva on Saturday night.

The accolades came from both camps because of the friendliness of the Fijian people.

Highlanders coach and former All Blacks Aaron Mauger said his players felt at home because “you are very kind people and you made us feel very welcome”.

He made the comment after his team lost 22-45 to the rampaging Chiefs who scored a runaway six first half tries under cool and windy Laucala Bay conditions.

“It was fantastic,” Mauger continued.

“We enjoyed our time in the past three days we have been here. The Fijian support to the Highlanders has been outstanding and helped us in the opportunity here in playing our home game. “We could not ask for anything more, but to the Fijian public, thank you for your support.”

His co-captain and fullback Ben Smith said the Fijian smiles and friendliness helped them settle in quickly in their first visit here.

“We got here on Thursday and we were welcomed very well. The people had been great and where we were staying at the Holiday Inn, Suva. It made our transition to Fiji really easy, but a bit of a shame that we could not put out a bit of performance for the Fijian people and the fans over here. It’s disappointing, but for the trip, we were really welcomed by you.”

Disappointing too for Fijian All Black and Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo who celebrated his 50th game for his team on Saturday here at home, but he had to limp off the ground in the second spell injured.

A worrying sight too for the All Blacks camp.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs which led 42-0 at the break and wrapped up the match by climbing to third position in the New Zealand table ahead of the Highlanders, said their experience in Fiji helped them win.

“Playing here sort of give us an advantage, sort of another culture and another group of fans. From our first game here, we have worked and learned from the past couple of years and that helped us along,” centre and All Black Charlie Ngatai said.

“It was the Highlanders game, but we have played here in the past few years as our home game and we have a few fans here.”
Former Flying Fijian and a Chiefs assistant coach Tabai Matson thanked Fijians for their hospitality.

He also predicts an exciting year ahead for the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians, especially in the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the match had a viewing audience of 2.4 million people around the world.

“We witnessed an evening of great rugby,” he said during the after-match reception.

“Vinaka vakalevu to both teams for the wonderful spectacle. On behalf of all Fijians, I want to say that it was a pleasure to have you in our capital to experience up close the skills that you have in New Zealand.

“By bringing Super Rugby to Fiji, the dream has been realised that it is not only for the benefit of Fijians, but for your teams and World Rugby. Rugby brings the world and the people together and it does not end there.”

The Highlanders meet defending champion and table leaders Crusaders this weekend while the Chiefs play the Brumbies at home.

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