Nothing showcases the joy of rugby as much as the sport being played in Fiji.

That love of the game and national pride in the Olympic sevens gold medal at Rio grasps you from the time you touch down at the airport until you check your bags in for the return flight.

Rugby is the nation's sporting kava, a joyous athletic potion to whisk the population away from mundane daily tasks into expressive exuberance. The Chiefs and Crusaders have felt that warmth and the humidity since they arrived for tonight's New Zealand conference shootout.

All very noble and there'll be no complaints from spectators who get to the game at Suva Stadium and others who cram around available radio and television sets. The price of tickets is the only grumble as it is for the Blues match in Samoa next month against the Reds.


These missionary visits have a feel-good factor about them but make no sense to the tournament.

The returning headaches for Chiefs midfielder Charlie Ngatai are disturbing as well as the franchise's repeat deal to play one of their home games in Fiji.

Two years ago, the All Blacks played a test in Samoa as a thank-you for connections the Pacific nation had brought to rugby in New Zealand, a chance to make up for the neglect on the test calendar and as a dress-rehearsal for the World Cup. That was long overdue and made sense but the Chiefs' trips to Fiji don't have the same logic.

Pacific Island teams, unfortunately, are not playing in Super Rugby and evidently are not part of Sanzaar's future as that organisation pushes further into Japan and Argentina. Whatever fallout happens from the decision to cut the number of teams in the series, the format is not going to embrace any teams from Fiji, Tonga or Samoa.

Asking Fiji to guarantee significant match fees to tonight's Chiefs and Crusaders franchises is diverting money which could have stretched a long way in coaching, planning and rugby educational systems on the Pacific Island. That audience is also disconcerted at match ticket prices.

It robs Chiefs season ticket-holders of the chance to get down to their Waikato Stadium to watch this top of the table clash. Taking this game offshore left Chiefs supporters with the Blues and Hurricanes as the only home derby clashes - then the Sunwolves and Aussie teams - with the June 20 tour match against the Lions as the headline tickets in their roster.

If there were plans to establish a Super Rugby side in the Pacific or to include one and base it elsewhere, then matches like tonight's in Suva would have more merit but the occasional whispers about some move to include a squad from the Pacific have faded.

We are left with this sort of game which seems to carry thank you messages to Fiji as a pipeline for players and continued dialogue about talent-scouting and siphoning more young men away to schools in New Zealand for their Super-education.