Kagifa Samoa making debut this week
When Kagifa Samoa take the field on Saturday in their first ever Global Rapid Rugby fixture, team Chief Executive Officer Richard Fale will breathe a sigh of relief.
“It’s been a long journey, a massive learning process," he said.
Fale said it has taken about five years of building relationships and developing their understanding of the sport in the region to get to this point.
“The differences between professional sports entertainment in the United States and what currently exists in rugby union, it’s very different.
“It’s awesome to finally be able to get out on the field."
Fale is a former U.S. politician with Tongan, Fijian and Samoan heritage, who grew up in Tonga and Hawai'i.
“The focus [for Kagifa Samoa] is to be an asset to the development of the Manu Samoa and Samoa A," he said.
To that end, Fale said the team has agreed to take on a minimum of five Samoan-based players that meet certain strength and conditioning standards.
“We also have a wide net of Manu Samoa and Samoa A players that live in both New Zealand and Australia."
He said they will also be looking to try and strengthen Samoa’s position in capturing players that are Samoan-eligible.
"For example we’ve flown in two really strong potential future Samoa nationals who are on Australia’s radar."
For this first year of Global Rapid Rugby, Kagifa Samoa will play four exhibition matches before Season One in 2020, where eight teams will compete for a 1.8 million tala first prize over 14 rounds plus a finals series.
Fale said Kagifa's squad will vary a lot this year, to give as many players as possible a chance to put their hand up for Season One.
“The best way to look at this is like a job interview for 2020, come in, show us what you’ve got.
“We do have a solid group of Samoan, Tongan, and even a couple of Fijian players that will be part of the organisation moving forward as we kinda get a look at everybody."
Fale is also involved with the Hawai'i team that will compete from next year, and between the two sides' squads there are 70 positions to fill.
With Apia Park closed until after the Pacific Games in July, Kagifa Samoa are being hosted in Pukekohe, New Zealand by the Counties-Manukau Rugby Union.
Fale said that comes with the understanding that some of their players will be involved in Kagifa as a build-up for the domestic Mitre 10 Cup season.
“We also have to leave room for Samoan players we want to bring in to the organisation."
He listed current and former All Blacks Patrick Tuipulotu, Lima Sopoaga and Steven Luatua as examples.
“Guys like that, that are of Samoan heritage who are also a great value and asset that would help mentor and guide these young guys.
“We have all those goals and objectives we’re all trying to balance with the team.
“It’s an enormous task, but it’s exciting to have those challenges to deal with."
Fale was extremely thankful to the Samoa Rugby Union for sanctioning the team to compete in Global Rapid Rugby.
He particularly thanked Samoa Rugby Union C.E.O. Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea'i and board member Afamasaga Rico Tupa'i for their support and patience.
“We know it hasn’t been an easy road, but when you’re accomplishing great things you expect a number of challenges along the way."
Global Rapid Rugby Pacific Showcase Series fixtures (all Samoan time)
- Saturday, 18 May 2019 4:10 pm - Fijian Latui vs Kagifa Samoa - Churchill Park, Fiji
- Friday, 31 May 2019 12:45 am - Western Force vs Kagifa Samoa - HBF Park, Western Australia
- Friday, 7 June 2019 6:40 pm - Kagifa Samoa vs Fijian Latui - Navigation Homes Stadium, New Zealand
- Saturday, 15 June 2019 6:40 pm - Kagifa Samoa vs Western Force - Ballymore, Queensland