Manu Samoa Rugby puts spotlight on Samoa

When Samoa’s beloved Manu Samoa Rugby Team plays the All Blacks in June – Samoa will stop. 

Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai, CEO of Samoa Rugby Union.

“I think Manu Samoa are the heartbeat of the country,” said Manu Samoa CEO Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i.  “It stops the nation.”

Samoa Rugby Union kicked off its 29-day campaign with a media launch at the new Fale Samoa in Mangere Auckland last week. The aim was to promote Manu Samoa versus the All Blacks at Eden Park on June 16.  Manu Samoa is participating in a Special Pasifika Challenge hosted In Auckland, consisting of a double banger — Tonga versus Wales, followed by Manu Samoa versus New Zealand’s All Blacks.

Samoa’s Prime Minister and Chairman of Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi launched the SRU campaign in South Auckland.

It was a golden opportunity to re-engage with Samoan communities living overseas, he said. Despite the challenges faced by Samoa Rugby, “No other sport comes close to the obsession and passion the people have for the Manu Samoa team,” he added.  He called on Samoan communities in New Zealand and around the world to rally for Manu Samoa.

He said support by the Samoan people was uncompromising, loud and proud, stubborn and it was a great opportunity to “rebuild our connections with our Samoan communities.”  Despite previous criticism and challenges faced by the Samoa Rugby Union, they were in a rebuilding phase, with a new coach in ex-All Black Alama Ieremia and a new programme for identifying and developing junior players in Samoa, he said.

Mr Fepulea’i said the exposure from the 2015 Test, Samoa v All Blacks was a huge boost for Samoan Rugby and Samoa. It showed Samoa could host Tier One Rugby matches. As a result, countries like Wales, France and England were knocking on the door to play Manu Samoa.

Manu Samoa Coach Alama Ieremia with Samoa Trade Commissioner Fonoti Dr Lafitai I Fuatai.

The televised test matches at Eden Park to Europe and Asia will be big for Samoa said Mr Fepulea’i.  Sports tourism could also generate income for hotels and tourism.  However, other than their big corporate sponsors, SRU were yet to capitalise on small business sports sponsorships and endorsements.  But with SRU tightening up on branding around Manu Samoa, this would help earn further revenue for the team, Mr Fepulea’i said.

Pacific Trade Invest Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade also commented on the rise of sports tourism its impact on economic development in the Pacific.

“Sport in the Pacific is fast becoming an economic development foundation.  Players are becoming professional and hosted events are becoming very important for the tourism and domestic markets.  We are delighted to see that Samoa is hosting a Super 15 game and we look forward to seeing commercial opportunities develop from this.

“Fiji has certainly seen benefits from hosting Super 15 games in the last two years and we understand they have contracted two games in 2017.  We would like to think that Tuilaepa will also be able to negotiate continued Super 15 games in Samoa for the future.  We also hope that my team known as the “Pacific” Highlanders led by Lima Sopoaga are able to make the trip to Samoa next year.”

For some Samoan businesses and organisations, the 2015 Test made a big difference.  Samoa Tourism estimated the tour attracted more than 3500 international visitors for the week of the match for the seven days.  Hotels were sold out seven months in advance.  Businesses were booming during the visit, he said.  But some small businesses reported little or no difference overall.

Samoa Trade Commissioner Fonoti Dr Lafitai I Fuatai said businesses such as clothing producer Eveni Pacific, makers of the Elei shirts worn by the All Blacks on arrival for the 2015 Samoa test, did well.   Their Elei shirts were in high demand and quickly sold out.  However, the Auckland launch was an opportunity for local Samoan communities to come and support the Manu Samoa team and the fundraisers.

Manu Samoa Coach Alama Ieremia said in his speech, the team would assemble in Auckland in a few weeks-time. To play the biggest and the best was “a dream come true” for the players.

South Auckland is part of the build-up programme through its support of Manu Samoa.  He invited the Samoan community to come and support the team’s upcoming activities including a corporate dinner evening and open training days.  Fans can also check Manu Samoa’s Facebook page.

Samoa could also gain the spotlight again, as Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi also confirmed Samoa’s bid to host the 2019 South Pacific Games after Tonga withdrew as the host nation.

Pacific Trade Invest is planning a Pacific Path to Market workshop in Samoa with dates to be confirmed.

For more information email PTI’s Eleanor Ikinofo at Eleanor.i@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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