Rugby league: Tonga supporters expected to outnumber Kiwis fans as Mt Smart gears up for test return

Mt Smart Stadium has almost sold out for Saturday's test between NZ Kiwis and Mate Ma'a Tonga, the first league game there for nearly three years.

Organisers expect the 27,000 capacity venue to be a sea of red, as New Zealand-Tongans come out in force to support their team.

Mate Ma'a Tonga are here and Tongans in Otahuhu are ecstatic.

Tonga supporters' decorations in Auckland.
Tonga supporters' decorations in Auckland. Photo credit: Image - Newshub

"If they win, we're happy, but if they lose, we're still happy," one fan told Newshub.

Win or lose, the sea of Tongan support will certainly run red. Tonga fan merchandise is selling out fast.

"Money's not a problem," said another supporter. "Joining in is."

The red sea is swelling and tubemakers Hynds are in on the hype. They've got 120 tickets, so more than half of the 200 who work for them at their Pokeno site will be at the game.

The Tongan team arrived on Tuesday and were given their warrior names in a solemn ceremony at a kava reception.

Tonga's Sipi tau.
Tonga's Sipi tau. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

"It's massive for us," said co-captain Sio Siua Taukeiaho. "Most of our fans are here in Auckland.

"If we can get everyone here on Saturday, it'll be good for us."

There's so much love for Tonga on the streets of South Auckland, but how much love is too much? 

One community leader says too much is never enough, especially after their David-and-Goliath win over the Kangaroos in 2019. 

"From previous experiences in 2019, they had the same love, and they beat the Australians and they beat the British, so it's actually good for them to have this love," said community leader Manase Lua. "The more love the better."

There are concerns gang rivalry between Tongans in the Killer Beez and the Tribesmen could spill over and disrupt the game, but Lua hopes that's been dealt with.

"Gangs are gangs," Lua told Newshub. "It's a separate thing.

"I think there's a truce on at the moment, but it's always good for communities to front that issue and make sure there's a safe environment.

"We did that last Friday, had a talk about keeping safe, but I think we'll be fine."

The game's almost certain to be a sellout and even though it's a home fixture for the Kiwis, you might struggle to see their supporters in the crowd.

Join us at 5:430pm Saturday for live updates of the Kiwis v Tonga test