Heritage and culture are not always the first things to come to mind when thinking about rugby.

But for the Flying Fijians Under 20 and national men's rugby teams, their time in Rotorua is looking to be strongly led by this.

Fiji and the Māori All Blacks will battle in front of a crowd at the Rotorua International Stadium this Saturday after Fiji won for the first time since 1957 on the weekend with a 27-10 win in Suva.

The teams were welcomed on to Te Papaiouru Marae today after arriving in Rotorua last night.

Advertisement

Ngāti Whakaue kaumātua Monty Morrison led the whaikōrero which was spotted with laughs and driven by high energy from everyone.

Although they only arrived last night, the Fijian teams had already developed a soft spot for Rotorua, particularly the culture and the scenery.

The Flying Fijians being welcomed onto Te Papaiouru Marae

Posted by Rotorua Daily Post on Monday, 15 July 2019

The Fijian U20 elite player pathway manager Bill Gadolo said the warm and traditional welcome and exchange at the marae set the scene for their time in Rotorua.

"It's good for the boys to see the similarities in the culture," which he said there were many of, from the names of places to pronunciation.

It was Fijian captain Tevita Ikaniver's first time in Rotorua and he said the cold was not enough to cool the confidence in their chance to win on Saturday.

The confidence was underpinned by a mixture of nerves and excitement, which was all part of it.

The Fijian rugby team welcomed on to Te Papaiouru Marae. Photo / Stephen Parker
The Fijian rugby team welcomed on to Te Papaiouru Marae. Photo / Stephen Parker

Ikaniver said the game being played in Rotorua instead of one of the country's main centres was good for them as it allowed the team to experience the culture and customs of locals.

Apart from their planned rugby-related duties, the team will attend a church service with the local Fijian community and a pool party in the lead-up to the match.

Advertisement

Central Bay of Plenty rugby manager Lipi Sinnott said there was already a good relationship between the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union and Fijian Rugby Union.

"We want to create good relationships with quite a few indigenous countries and see what kind of opportunities are there," he said.

The fact the game was being played in Rotorua was great for the community and particularly our tamariki, Sinnott said.

As for the game itself, Sinnott said it would be nothing short of entertaining and full of energy.

"Especially after the last match in Fiji, there'll be plenty on the line for both teams.

"For the Māori team it will be a bit of pride and mana, and for the Fijians, it's if they can do it here in the colder climate."

Māori All Blacks v Fiji - The game
Saturday, July 20 at 7.35pm
Rotorua International Stadium

Tickets are available at Ticketek.