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Tuesday 2 March, 2004

Fiji Rep No. 173
Sailosi Kepa (Breakaway)

Full name:
Sailosi Wai Kepa
Club: Lodoni, Suva
Height: 1m85 (6’1")
Weight: 88kg (14st 2lb)
Born: 4 November 1938
Died: 1 March 2004 in Suva
Village: Nukuni, Ono-i-Lau, Lau

Test debut: 1961 v AUSTRALIA1
1 cap (4 games, 2 tries)

Fiji rugby mourns Kepa's death

Teivovo regrets to inform readers of the passing of former national rep, national team manager, FRU chairman and life member Sailosi Kepa, who died 1 March 2005 at age 65.

Rarely do we come across such a person that dedicates so much of themselves to others, to achieving and reaching such high goals in so many walks of life.

From humble beginnings, Sailosi Wai Kepa went from schoolteacher to national rugby rep to High Court Judge to Attorney General to High Commissioner in London, making along the way friends and admirers from far and wide.

Hailing from Ono-I-Lau, the young Kepa went to Draiba Fijian School then Lelean Memorial School where he began his rugby. He enrolled at Nasinu Teachers College in 1959 and went on a tour of the Pacific with the college rugby team alongside Joeli Naucabalavu.

He made his Test debut for Fiji as 22-year-old breakaway against Australia in 1961 alongside such great names as Jo Levula, Orisi Dawai, Suliasi Cavu, Apenisa Kuruisaqila and his close friend Naucabalavu.

"We called him ‘Phantom’ because he was so strong and so tough," former team-mate and current Vice President Ratu Jope Naucabalavu (no relation to Joeli) said.

"He was one year my senior at Nasinu Teachers College, but he was coach, captain and trainer of the Lodoni team," Ratu Jope recalled.

"At training one afternoon, he arrived in the middle of one of our joking sessions. He told us to lie in a line on our backs and proceeded to step on our stomachs."

"He would make us run up and down the hill before doing some 400-metre rounds, then ball work and without any break we’d go straight into the 100-metre sprints."

Kepa’s hard training regimes reaped great rewards for the club as nine players ended up representing Fiji.

On the field, Kepa excelled in the loose and could make things very unpleasant for the opposition with his speed and solid tackling.

"He was our scoring machine," Ratu Jope said.

The 1980 Fiji team to Argentina. Sailosi Kepa is seated with glasses between Ilaitia Tuisese (coach) and Etuate Tavai (manager)
Though representing Suva until 1965, Kepa’s playing career was cut short by a serious shoulder injury, so he moved into coaching and management while still pursuing his career in the legal profession.

He coached the 1967 Fiji Schoolboys team to New Zealand with Graham Eden as his assistant, then later coached the Rewa and Nadi provincial sides.

In 1977, he managed the Fiji team that defeated the British Lions 25-21 at Buckhurst Park in Suva, and in 1980 he was the Government Representative on Fiji’s inaugural tour to Argentina (pictured above).

Kepa became chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union in 1983, holding the post for three years, and was made a life member in 1994.

His distinguished legal career saw him reach the position of High Court Judge in 1992 having been Minister four Justice for four years. He later established the Human Rights Commission in Fiji, of which he was the first chairman.

Judge Kepa retired in August 2004.

He is survived by his wife – the Minister for Education Ro Teimumu Kepa – and four children Filipe, Sailosi, Asenaca and Tupoutu’a.

– Jeremy Duxbury

Fiji Record
20 May v North Harbour at North Sydney
27 May v New South Wales at Sydney Sports Ground
10 June v AUSTRALIA at Brisbane Exhibition Ground
21 June v Southern NSW in Canberra

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