Hamilton’s Tongan community are celebrating the news their country’s rugby team will take on the All Blacks next year in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup.
Although many of the 40,000 Tongans in New Zealand live in Auckland, there is a sizeable community in Hamilton who are expected to attend the match on 7 September.
The All Blacks’ haka will face the Ikale Tahi tau when the teams front each other.
Tongan Clive Bourne said the match would bring a lot of mana to the Tongan community.
“[It will] bring all the Tongans close together and also close to the community here in Hamilton.
“Also, it is a great thing for rugby for everyone to share the spirit of rugby and the spirit of Polynesia.”
Mr Bourne said the days leading up to the match would be loud and colourful as would the match itself.
“So hopefully they can release some of the All Blacks to come and play for us, it would be really good.
“We will never lose because we always stay Tongan in our heart, so it doesn’t matter as long as we play and enjoy. It’s the spirit of living and enjoying life, that’s the Tongan way.”
Another Tongan supporter, Cecelia Fonua, is convinced Tonga will beat the All Blacks.
“We still 100 percent support the Tongan team, we are proud to be Tonga, 100 percent proud.”
Chiefs Rugby helped broker the deal to bring the All Blacks-Tonga match to Hamilton.
Chief executive Michael Collins said it was about bringing more exciting rugby to the region.
“New Zealanders are historically quite a dour supporter and even though we are knowledgeable about the game and appreciate a good game of rugby, the Tongans seem to bring excitement and flare and a lot of noise to an event, so really looking forward to seeing that at FMG Stadium Waikato.”
Mr Collins hopes the energy and excitement Tongan supporters put in will hopefully be an inspiration to All Blacks’ supporters.
“I just wonder if there is going to be a bit of a sea change here in New Zealand and New Zealand supporters actually get a bit more into it.”
Hamilton mayor Andrew King said Tongans from Auckland would make the journey down.
“I’ll definitely be supporting the All Blacks but I am 100 percent behind Tonga and it’s just fantastic.”