TODAY |

From teacher to builder to facing the All Blacks: Meet Tonga's Zane Kapeli

Zane Kapeli's journey to Test rugby has been nothing short of remarkable, named to make his debut for Tonga against the All Blacks tomorrow.

Having spent time playing for Waikato at provincial level in the NPC, 29-year-old Kapeli's story is that of a journeyman, trying his hand in a number of fields away from rugby.

That all appears to have paid off, named in the number 20 jersey for tomorrow's Test against the All Blacks in Hamilton, as well as earning himself a spot in Tonga's 31-man Rugby World Cup squad.

"[I was] a builder in mid-Canterbury, I'm actually [doing] a building apprenticeship now, doing it over in Tauranga," he told 1 NEWS.

"I did six months of teaching [training college]. To be honest, I was scraping Cs and Ds, so it was probably best that I went to go and do a trade and get out of study."

Kapeli's journeyman-like story even extends to his sporting career, having also played rugby league for the Waiheke Rams, the same club that produced Kiwis and Melbourne Storm hooker Brandon Smith.

"I'm a Waiheke Rams man. I just love getting in the grind and making tackles, [I] didn't want to be in the limelight."

Despite playing for most of his life in New Zealand, Kapeli's Tongan heritage is in no doubt - the son of former Auckland and 'Ikale Tahi prop Rudi Kapeli.

That will mean tomorrow's debut sees the younger Kapeli up against a side he's been admiring for as long as he can remember.

"I've been watching the All Blacks all my life, trying to be one of them," he explained.

"Things obviously unfolded. To be honest, I'm a proud 'Ikale Tahi man now.

"If I get an opportunity to play them, I'm going to take every moment, and hopefully put my best foot forward."

Your playlist will load after this ad

After a journeyman career, Kapeli has been named for his Test debut tomorrow. Source: 1 NEWS