Getting to the Super Rugby Pacific starting line will be the first success story for Moana Pasifika when they start their season, against the Crusaders, in Dunedin on Friday.
Assistant coach and former All Black Filo Tiatia said it had been 26 years waiting for Pacific teams to be involved. Seeing the Fijian Drua play two weeks ago had been a proud moment for South Pacific rugby, and it would be no different for Moana Pasifika on Friday.
Tiatia said having to play their first game after the postponement of their first two games was probably unique. It was not something that teams ever planned for, but the players had adjusted well.
He wasn't concerned that their first game would be against the five-time defending champions.
"What better way to have our debut than against the Crusaders. We're just grateful we're part of an awesome competition filled with legacy.
"We're just starting, and we're not under any illusions about how challenging it is going to be. But the reality is that we can only put our best foot forward and keep growing, and keep learning," he said.
Tiatia said he did hope that other New Zealand-based sides wouldn't be affected by Covid as Moana Pasifika had been because it was another challenge they didn't need. He confirmed they would be staying in Queenstown for a few more weeks.
Halfback Ereatara Enari said they knew they were playing catch-up but were looking forward to the game. The former Crusader said he would be proud to run out against players who had contributed to his career for Moana Pasifika.
They had twice gone through the mental process of getting up to play only to have games postponed due to Covid-19.
"Again, we are ready for game week and our minds are gunning towards Friday. We've been talking about our next horizon, which is Friday, and we shoot for that until we hit it," Enari said.
They were happy to be playing one of the best teams in the world as their introduction to the competition.
With around half of their players making Super Rugby debuts, it was a huge opportunity, he said, firstly to debut but also against such a strong opponent.
"They're very consistent and everyone knows how strong they are so for us it is focusing on ourselves, control the controllables and we've got to put our best foot forward with everything that we have and I'm sure of what we'll put on the field," he said.
Enari said the 10 days after coming out of isolation were tough, but he felt the side was now starting to hit its stride.
He said those who had played Super Rugby had explained to their newcomers that they wouldn't understand what it was about until they were on the field. There would be a shock to players' systems at some point, and it was how they responded that was important.