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Toutai Kefu hopes Super Rugby Pacific fundraiser will keep Tonga relief effort going

By AAP
Toutai Kefu. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Toutai Kefu has welcomed the extra layer of funding and awareness the Super Rugby Pacific season will provide to ensure Tonga’s plight isn’t forgotten.

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January’s volcanic eruption sent a tsunami crashing onto Tonga’s coastline, causing widespread damage which only got worse when the falling ash settled.

Almost 90 per cent of Tonga’s 86,000 residents are said to be affected and now in need of assistance, according to the Red Cross.

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Former Wallaby-turned Tongan coach Kefu’s phone has been running hot ever since a charity game ahead of the Reds’ season-opener at Suncorp Stadium next Saturday was announced.

Donations will be sought for UNICEF, who have already delivered a shipment of water sanitation and hygiene materials, along with recreation packs for children.

Chris Latham, James Horwill, Sean Hardman, Stephen Moore, Nathan Sharpe, Ben Mowen, Berrick Barnes, Lachie Turner, Drew Mitchell and Sam Cordingley are among the names set to play for the Vintage Reds.

Kefu will coach a Tongan team with a general Pacific flavour, with Radike Samo, Digby Iaone, Andrew Walker, George Smith, Jacob Raulini, Taniela Tupou’s brother Criff locked in while league converts Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri are both likely to pull on the boots.

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Rugby Australia, New Zealand Rugby and Super Rugby Pacific broadcasters Sky, Stan Sport and Nine will also donate $500 per try across the first 10 rounds of the competition to the Red Cross Pacific Tsunami Appeal.

“When it first happened there was a lot of news and media around it,” Kefu said.

“It’s probably gone a little bit quiet now but the devastation’s still there; rebuilding is going to take months, years.

“So what it does is raise awareness for the whole season, keep people thinking about what happened to Tonga five, six months down the track.”

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Kefu said the addition of Moana Pacifika and Fijian Drua to this year’s Super tournament had also given the region a rightful place at the rugby table.

He said eligibility rules allowing players to return to the likes of Tonga and Fiji after playing for another country amplified that overdue focus.

“We donate a lot of players to other countries, so to have actual teams representing Polynesia is fantastic,” he said.

“Even the latest rule change around eligibility has also been a game-changer for us; our team changes overnight … it instantly makes us competitive.”

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