Moana Pasifika assistant coach Stephen Jones is conscious the team will have to manage what they have as travel and time off the pitch during the week has not matched up for the side.

Moana Pasifika played Western Force in Perth last Friday night before flying back to Auckland to prepare for their next game against the Brumbies, who they face in Canberra this Friday.

While the Fijian Drua will need to play their ‘A-game’ and be mentally switched on for the full 80 minutes if they are to win against the Waratahs at home in their Super Rugby Pacific round five game on Saturday.

Head coach Mick Byrne said the Waratahs will not be easy beat and his players will have to be on alert for duration of the game.

The two Pasifika teams are fighting to stay in the top eight, with mixed results so far.

While Moana Pasifika have won two games out of the four. Drua have managed only one after four rounds of competition.

Moana focused on improving standards

Having secured two wins already as they head into the fight found, Moana Pasifika have achieved something they were not able to do in their first two Super Rugby seasons.

They have gotten the better of the Fijian Drua and the Western Force.

Assistant coach Jones said their focus this year is on improving daily.

“We are fully sort of focused on the present. We are conscious of the fact that we need to work harder on a daily basis and improve our standards,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the win over the weekend but we’re conscious there is another big challenge ahead of us this week.

“But from our perspective on what we’re discussing, is just making sure we get back to and just improve our standards on a daily basis.”

Managing time will be critical for the side, Jones said, especially when they have had limited time on the field.

They arrived back in Auckland on Sunday from Perth and leave for Canberra on Thursday for their Friday night game against the Brumbies.

“So as far as being smart and making sure we maximise every minute we have in training on the grass, to make sure that what we do there is efficient and accurate and relevant to the Brumbies’ game but also making sure that the time we have off the pitch is used in a smart manner because it’s about us knowing our roles,” he said.

“It’s making sure that all the players know their responsibilities so that they can perform to their best so that’s how we’ve managed this week with being sort of limited grass time.”

Jones said the fact that the Moana Pasifika players are now able to stay in the battle and the game until the final whistle is an area that has also improved, adding it was critical if the team is to finish in the top eight of the competition this year.

“The big thing for us is that we are listening and from working we improve standards on a daily basis. That has a massive knock on effect on performance on the park.

“Obviously you want the process to go to your victories and our goal would be to make the top eight. But we’re fully realistic of the competitive nature of the league and hugely respectful of other teams we will come up against.”

Jones said the Brumbies are a great team who have talented ball players who can punish any team that is not prepared.

Tongan number eight Semisi Paea gets his first inclusion in the side this season, named on the bench on Wednesday.

The exciting back-rower previously played in Major League Rugby for the New England Free Jacks and is now set to make his mark on this side of the world.

Moana Pasifika scrum coach Pauliasi Manu said Paea had worked hard to be included.

“Semisi has worked hard and earned his spot. He had a good preseason and really presented himself. He’s got the physicality and is really strong over the ball,” Manu said.

Former Brumibies flyhalf Christian Lealiifano will return to his old stomping ground where he played 12 seasons amassing 150 Super Rugby matches.

He retains the number 10 jersey ahead of William Havili, following a dominant performance in the team’s win over the Force in Perth last weekend.

‘We’re fitter than we were last year’

Drua coach Byrne said his players will need to be ready mentally and the Waratahs will not be easy beats.

He expects a physical battle where his players must focus and alert throughout.

“We know that the Waratahs have a good line defence and we know they’re a clever side. We just need to stay alive for any little opportunities that present themselves for us but also any little plays that the Waratahs might have,” he said at a news conference in Nadi.

“We just stay alert for that. They can be a clever team that they can take the opportunity. So we just need to be mentally switched on for that 80 minutes.

“But I’m sure the way we’ve trained this week we’ll be ready for that. I think we just got to bring our A-game on Saturday, which we try and do every week. If we bring that into the match with our physicality, I think we’ll be in for a good game.”

Despite going strong in the last quarters of their past four matches so far Drua have only managed to win one game – against the Crusaders at home two Saturdays ago.

Byrne said his players are match-fit and just need to keep the consistency.

“I think our fitness levels are good. We outscored the Blues in the second half, we outscored Moana in the second half, we kept the Crusaders to zero. And our last 20 last week against the Chiefs was a good 20 minutes.

“So we’re definitely fit enough and I’m not worried about that. We’ve worked hard in that area, we’re fitter than we were last year.

“The Chiefs game is the highest numbers we’ve had probably in the last 10 matches, and we held our own in that regard, especially the last 20 minutes. So all the numbers have us tracking well around their fitness.”

He said the week has also focused on improving their defense and looking at their attacking options.

“We’ve been working hard on our defensive systems and we will be looking at what we’re doing with the ball as well. If we can ask lots of questions of them and we need to tighten up a little bit of our edge defence,” he said.

He said last week a couple players went to the wrong part of the field and it created a lot of issues out wide and on the other side of the field.

“We just have to grind and rely on individuals making good decisions under pressure.”

Byrne believes the key for the team this week on attack will be getting back early onside as ball receivers to take the ball up over the advantage lines and ask questions off the Waratahs’ defense.

“We need to get back in the line as quick as we can, be set early and ask the Waratahs to make a lot of tackles. I think that’s going to be a big thing for us at home.

“To make sure we’re set early across the field, and we’re able to play both sides of the ruck. That’s where I think we play our best and that’s what we’re setting out to do,” he said.