Moana Pasifika has announced a monster signing with Wallaby Test centurion Sekope Kepu committed to the new Super Rugby club for two seasons from 2022.
With 110 Test caps to his name – including three Rugby World Cup missions – Kepu is Australia’s most capped prop of all time. His huge strength and mobility have been hallmarks of his Test career. He bowed out of international rugby after the Wallabies’ 2019 World Cup campaign in Japan.
Kepu, who made the move back to New Zealand with his family this year after a short stint with London Irish, has been relishing his return to Counties Manukau where his rugby started. Although Sydney-born, Kepu’s family moved to New Zealand where he played rugby as a young boy, and grew into a talented loose forward through the school-age grades. He made the switch from No 8 to the front row after the timely intervention of highly-regarded scrum coach Mike Cron. Tempted to go back to his favoured position at the back of the scrum, Kepu was told to stay at the front by another highly regarded coach leading in the age-grade programme at the time – Steven Hansen.
A stand-out player for Counties Manukau during their 2006 season, a busted collarbone disrupted his plans to secure a Super Rugby contract and effectively sidelined him for the 2007 season.
At age 21, he packed his bags for Australia and just a year later in 2008, Kepu came off the bench to debut for the Waratahs against the Highlanders in Dunedin. He hasn’t looked book since, being fast-tracked into the Wallabies’ programme and was on the northern tour by November that same year.
Moana Pasifika Head Coach Aaron Mauger said Kepu’s signing was a huge boost for the campaign.
“To play 110 Test matches in international rugby is remarkable for one athlete to achieve. It speaks volumes of Sekope’s passion for the game and his professionalism as a player.
“We’re incredibly lucky to have Sekope; he is a great fit for our team and our vaka, and I know we will all benefit from his wisdom and experience,” Mauger said.
Moana Pasifika Director of Rugby Kevin Senio said it is exciting to see the team take shape.
“It has been awesome the amount of interest we’ve received from players in joining the side. We have a solid team coming together and our mix of experience with emerging talent will put us in good stead.
“Sekope will give a massive boost to some of our young forwards and I know he is keen to give back,” Senio said.
Kepu said that Covid had disrupted his plans, but presented him with new opportunities.
“We came back to New Zealand earlier this year because our families needed us. We never thought we’d come back to New Zealand, but it has been amazing to be with both our families during these unprecedented times.
“I was really enjoying being back at with the Steelers – but lockdown has given me an opportunity to really clear my head, and get my body right and ready. I’m feeling in a really good place, and I’m excited and ready to play some footy again.
“The opportunity to play for Moana is one I couldn’t pass up. Super Rugby is one of the most exciting competitions to be part of, so to be able to represent my family and my heritage this way, is pretty special”.
“This is such a special honour to be part of the first campaign, and I want to be able to contribute to Moana’s story,” he said.See all news