Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, a Tongan-born tighthead prop, is the latest acquisition by the Hurricanes and one that is sure to bear fruit for the Wellington-based franchise.
Uluilakepa was born in Tonga on 18 January 1999. At the tender age of 13, he tipped the scales at 85kg. His current weight, 145kg, makes him one of the most physically formidable players in the game today.
He attended Marist Brothers High School in Suva and there elected to represent Fiji at U18 level. Two years later, having moved to New Zealand, he turned out for the New Zealand U20 side.
Although still very young, “Pass”, as he is known to his known to his friends, still holds old values very close, highlighting his family as his main inspiration for his various achievements to date.
Apart from rugby, the big man is enthusiastic about music, particularly, his guitar, and enjoys quality time with friends and family.
There is also an undeniably deeper side to Uluilakepa, who shows genuine concern for the degradation of the traditions and values of the Polynesian people in a modern context:
“We are slowly losing our traditional culture, especially in the Pacific Islands. The main word is respect which is sadly lacking among the younger generation. Normally children will listen to their parents and elders but now they talk back to their parents and talk smart to their elders which is so disrespectful...”
The Hurricanes will be excited by the presence of Uluilakepa in their set-up going forward. The young man’s work ethic and determination seem to indicate that a big career is in store for him which will be keenly observed by rugby people the world over.