Aaron Mauger has resigned as head coach of Moana Pasifika after two years in the job.
Mauger had signed a contract in October 2021 to coach Moana Pasifika for three years, but Stuff NZ understands Mauger informed the Moana Pasifika board late last week that he wouldn’t be continuing in the role next season.
However, Mauger will stay on as the team’s head coach for the final two games of the season, away to Fijian Drua, the Waratahs and then depart his role.
Despite improvement from some individuals, it has been a tough season for Moana Pasifika as they have failed to win any games, despite pushing the Blues recently in the 31-30 defeat at Eden Park.
For the game against the Hurricanes in round 12 Mauger rotated his entire squad and they were convincingly defeated 71-22. Mauger made the changes to help fringe players make it into international teams this year.
But by doing so he made the task of playing the Hurricanes in Wellington considerably harder.
However, that highlights the challenge Mauger faced, trying to make Moana Pasifika a competitive Super Rugby Pacific team, while also attempted to achieve the team’s other goal, which is to provide a pathway for Pacific Island players.
It is not yet known why Mauger has decided to not coach Moana Pasifika next year, but the team are expected to release a statement on Monday.
It was reported on Sky TV’s the Breakdown on Sunday night that Moana Pasifika’s best player, Levi Aumua is leaving the team next year to play for the Crusaders and he will sign a New Zealand Rugby contract.
The Crusaders are believed to have beaten the Blues and Rugby Australia to sign Aumua.
But for Moana Pasifika and Samoa, who would have hoped to have been able to select him for the World Cup, it’s a bitter blow, that flies in the face of what the team is trying to achieve.
Moana Pasifika were supposed to create a platform for Pacific Island players to play professional rugby at a high level, while still remain eligible for Samoa or Tonga.
But to lose Aumua does bring into question the purpose of Moana Pasifika if they lose their best player, despite the other players on the squad who have gone on to play international rugby.
The 42-year-old Mauger has previously coached Leicester in England and the Highlanders and it’s unknown whether he’d like to stay in coaching.
Back in March when rumours were flying around as to who would be Scott Robertson’s assistants at the All Blacks next year, Mauger did tell Stuff that this wasn’t something he’d be involved in.
“I haven’t had a tap on the shoulder,” he said. “It’s not something that interests just yet, at this stage of my journey. I’m not involved at this stage.”