The National, Friday July 5th, 2013
By JOHN PANGKATANA
Isapea oupeia! This is challenge thrown down by PNG Pukpuks skipper Aaron Miai in his local toaripi language from the Gulf Province…is basically calling on the crocodiles to go on the war-path.
The MJ Electrical employee from Moveave Village, East Kerema, is a man of few words and prefers to do his talking on the field.
One of two survivors from the first World Cup qualifiers in 2009, Miai is well versed in the colossal challenge that lies ahead for his predominantly new-look Pukpuks, when they open up their Federation of Oceania Rugby Union (FORU) Cup campaign against Melanesian brothers Solomon Islands tomorrow.
Winning to retain the FORU Cup is at stake, which is why ‘Fraka’ as he is popularily known has called on his forefathers to give them that edge in this four team battle amongst the third-tier Pacific rugby nations.
And the icing on the cake for either PNG, obvious danger Cook Islands, dark-horses Tahiti and the menacing Solomon Islands keen to shrug that PNG “big brother” tag is the opportunity to play Test playing nation Fiji for a World Cup berth next year.
Pukpuks coach Allan Manning yesterday said the Solomon Islands team is a big side but the former NSW Waratahs squad member is confident in his young outfit.
The homeside has pace out wide and the floodgates may open if sevens speedsters Henry Liliket, Hubert Tseraha and Tisa Kautu get a whiff of an opening.
Solomon Islands skipper Corey Chapman said they are serious about doing well and have brought 15 players from the last tour to PNG to make amends.
This time they have brought a bigger team with the likes of Delaiverata brothers Ilisoni (133kg, 200cm) at lock and Tuwala (110kg, 201cm) at flanker and No.8 Fredson Pukefenu (132kg, 184cm).
The Monier Pukpuks: Keto Neheja (loose-head prop), Kapua Kapua (hooker), Ryan Sambath (tight-head prop), William Maniot, Miai (locks), Geti Raka, Butler Morris (flankers), Gabriel Biyama (No.8), Liebert Suang (half-back), Jonah Kautu Jnr (five-eighth), Jackson Pato (second five), Morea Pease (centre), Hubert Tseraha, Henry Liliket (wings), Tisa Kautu (fullback).
Cook Islands, with their side littered with New Zealand and Australian-based players have the biggest pack with a likely starting front-row of Jacob Marsters (144kg), Wellington-based hooker Mathew Mullany (102kg) and the Stan Wright (122kg).
Current Cook Islands sevens international Junior Napara from the Manukau Rovers club in Auckland is a clinical finisher and can expect him to have a field day on the left wing.
Tahiti skipper Tunui Anania said they know their Cook Island cousins are better versed at the game but the hope to give it their best shot.
Tahiti has brought along a huge pack as well with back-rowers Noel Teihoarii (130kg) and Clyde Mauahiti (115kg) to add some muscle to handle the beefy Cook Islands pack.
Cook Islands play Tahiti at 1pm and PNG against Solomon Islands at 3pm at the Lloyd Robson Oval.