Kefu ready to rumble and do his bit for Japan
It was just a year ago that Toutai Kefu rumbled on the pitch. Since then, the former Wallaby No 8 has been in fortifying his spirit on how the game should be played to teams at both ends of the spectrum - Brisbane club Sunshine Coast Stingrays and World Cup-bound Tonga.
On Saturday, Kefu will be back doing what he loves best - charging with the ball in hand and hammering into an opponent - as he leads the Asia Pacific Barbarians against the World XV in the Chartis Cup at Hong Kong Football Club. 'I last played competitively this time last year for the Kubota Spears in the Japan Top League. I had seven wonderful years in Japan and I loved every minute of it,' said the 37-year-old Kefu.
Kefu is part of an impressive lineup of players gathered from all over the world for the encounter, which it is hoped will raise HK$1 million for the Japanese earthquake relief. Kefu is more than happy to be able to play a role in the game, giving back a little bit to a country that welcomed him with open arms.
'What happened was a terrible tragedy, but after a couple of months people tend to forget and this is a wonderful way to bring back the focus on raising funds. There are a lot of people in Japan who are suffering and I hope we can raise a significant amount for the charity,' Kefu said.
After 60 caps for Australia and 100 for Queensland, the Tonga-born Kefu left for Japan to play in the Top League. Most people say he left when he was at his peak. 'I don't have any regrets at all on what I did. I had a wonderful time in a place with a different culture.
'Lots of players leave and go to Europe, but I went to Japan and that was the best decision I made. My kids were born in Japan and we love the place. I go back there at least once every year.'
His love for all things Japanese may come to a temporary stop during the World Cup in New Zealand in September as Japan are in the same pool as Tonga, who have named him forwards coach.
'Japan has really improved but so have all the other teams at their level. But I hope Japan hasn't improved too much, not with Tonga in their pool,' Kefu said yesterday, soon after arriving in Hong Kong.
Kefu will lead a pack on Saturday that will include New Zealand lock forwards Greg Rawlinson and Ross Filipo, as well as Perpignan and Samoa back-rower Henry Tuilagi. The forwards will also have a number of Japanese internationals, including Naoroni Mizuyama, Tateo Kania and Takuro Miuchi.
The Barbarians backline will include Fijians Sireli Bobo, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Seni Rabeni and Vilimoni Delasau, as well as Hong Kong duo Tom McColl and Peter McKee. Kefu will also be reunited with younger brother and Wasps centre Steve.
'Since leaving Japan I have played in a couple of charity games, the last being for the Classic Wallabies against the Classic All Blacks where we raised NZ$500,000 (HK$3.18 million) for the Christchurch [earthquake] appeal. I hope we can do the same here on Saturday,' Kefu said.
Amount, in HK dollars, that the Chartis Cup charity game hopes to raise to help survivors of Japan's earthquake and tsunami