International powerhouse and Wallaby Test centurion Sekope Kepu will Captain Moana Pasifika for their debut season in Super Rugby Pacific.
Kepu’s duty gets under way with this Friday’s pre-season game against the Gallagher Chiefs at Mt Smart Stadium.
With 110 Test caps and three Rugby World Cup campaigns to his name, Sydney-born Kepu has been a natural choice for the Moana men.
Kepu was the first prop to reach the 100 Test milestone for Australia and he is their most capped prop of all time.
In total, Kepu has played 295 first-class matches including 141 appearances for the Waratahs and he brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to the emerging talent of Moana Pasifika.
Moana Pasifika Trust chair Savae Sir Michael Jones says “This is another significant milestone for Moana Pasifika. Sekope is an outstanding natural leader who carries the essence of what our community and Moana Pasifika is all about. The burden and responsibility of a Captain is always heavy but we know he will carry this with huge Mana, confidence and grace.”
Head coach Aaron Mauger said naming Kepu as Captain to the team was an emotion-charged occasion.
“We are so blessed to have Sekope in our environment. Right from the outset, he has led by example – both in the way he trains, prepares, and in the way he contributes to the culture of our team. In doing this, he has effectively picked himself as leader, to take our hoi (waka paddle) and lead us as the first Captain on this maiden journey.
“Since day one he has had a massive impact in how he leads and influences this team. He has been on the biggest stage of rugby and yet he carries himself with great humility. It speaks volumes of who he is. The team is in very good hands,” Mauger said.
Kepu described his experience with Moana Pasifika as a special calling.
“First and foremost would like to thank our heavenly father for this wonderful opportunity and for blessing us. There is an indescribable bond of brotherhood in this special team even though we have been together for only a short couple of months at most.
“Coming back to New Zealand I never thought I would play rugby again. God works in mysterious ways, to be here and then called into the Moana Pasifika team, it was something I didn’t think twice about.
“From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of my family, my wife, my village, I want to thank Aaron and the management team, and the team for the support and for allowing me to lead them into battle as the first ever Moana Pasifika team. Being a new Captain is a blessing and honoured position and I’m truly humbled to hold it very close to my heart. Our people deserve this, it’s up to us to inspire the next generation. Together, we are going to unearth something very special.”
Moana Pasifika have dedicated their first outing in the pre-season match against the Gallagher Chiefs towards raising funds for their ‘Ofa Atu Tonga’ (Love You Tonga) relief efforts following the recent eruption of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai island.
The match and fundraising efforts are being supported by Sky Sport who were quick to jump into action offering to broadcast the match live from from 6.30pm, and to promote the fundraising effort.