Sharks get Epi Taione boost



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The Sharks latest acquisition has arrived fresh from Japan where his team the Sanyo White Knights won the local cup. Epi Taione (once known as Paddy Power) weighs in at 122kgs and normally plays at centre but can cover wing or back row forward.

On Tuesday he arrived at The Absa Stadium Durban from Japan to much excitement and Dick Muir says thinks he has something special in Taione.

‘He has arrived fit and raring to go, it’s a real bonus and good to have him here,’ said coach Dick Muir on the Sharks site.

‘It’s been a long wait from our side but we knew that worst case scenario was that he’d only come now, but we believe he will make a big impact.

“When we looked at contracting him, we took into consideration his commitments in Japan and he wanted to fulfill those. They did extremely well, winners of the knockout competition and runners up in the league.’

Epi has not played in Super rugby but he has been to South Africa before, when in 1999 the Tongan National team spent some time training in Johannesburg and Midrand.


Epi has played for a Sharks team before. He joined Sale Sharks (England) in the summer of 2005 on a two year contract. Before that he had played for Tynedale and Newcastle Falcons.


However, he was released from the contract by Sale Sharks after the 2005-06 season, and went to Japan to play for Sanyo Wild Knights

‘It’s good to be back,’ he enthused.

‘I grew up in Tonga and because Tongans support New Zealand and Australian sides in the Super 14, it now looks like I’m playing for the enemy.

‘But this is the most exciting time in my rugby career – to wear the shirt that greats in rugby have before. It’s a massive challenge for me, and the hardest will be getting into the team.’

Taione has been keeping an eye on the Sharks progress and he feels that he some work to do and just getting into the team will be, ‘possibly the hardest ever, maybe more so than getting into the Tongan national squad. But I’m looking forward to it and hopefully get a chance.’

Having been named one of the five finalists of the IRB Player of the Rugby World Cup, he certainly has plenty to offer the Sharks.

‘We have contracted him as a forward,’ explains Coach Dick Muir, ‘but it’s nice to have a player of his stature, it gives us an opportunity to take him on tour where guys like him, Craig Burden, Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski can fluctuate between the forwards and backs, because we’ve been promoting guys being more versatile.’

Muir confirmed that while Taione has also played at centre (against the Springboks at the World Cup), the Sharks will play him at 7 or 8.

‘It doesn’t matter to me where I play,’ says the man who is often referred to as a ‘giant’ as at 6 feet 4 inches.

‘The game’s changed; I’ve played inside centre, but in the knockout stages in Japan for Sanyo, I played blindside flank and eighthman.

‘For me it doesn’t matter ‘ in the modern game you never want to be seen as a specialist – I consider myself a rugby player first and foremost.’

‘I am also looking forward to playing alongside someone like Frans Steyn, he’s one of the most exciting players in the world right now. It’s exciting to be here, to have a team-mate like Frederic Michalak who is a good player – AJ Venter too.’

He admits that although he has another year of his contract with Sanyo, he is ‘Finished playing in Japan.’ His pregnant fianc’ is with him in Durban and if he likes it here, he may well stay on past the Super 14.

Commercial Manager Rudolf Straeuli who looks after player contracts confirmed that Taione only has a Super 14 contract with the Sharks, ‘but if he wants to stay on and play in the Currie Cup, like Frederic, we’d be glad for them to make Durban their home.’

Taione controversially changed his name to Paddy Power for the duration of the 2007 Rugby World Cup in a sponsorship deal agreed with the Irish bookmaker.

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