The Tonga captain talks scare tactics, dance moves and eligibility rules
Tonga scrum-half Sonatane Takulua
How valuable is it for Tonga to have Tests against Scotland and England this autumn?
To have Tier One teams playing Tier Two, not just for us, Tonga, but other Tier Two teams, is very important.
The game at Twickenham will be huge. It’s the first time most of the players, including me, will have played in Twickenham. Hopefully all the Tongans and islanders turn up to give their support and get behind us.
Would you like World Rugby to change the rules around eligibility? For players to be able to switch allegiance?
I think that everyone who supports Tier Two countries would love the rules to change; it would make the game more interesting.
All the top, top players in the world could compete against each other on the top stage. Malakai Fekitoa can play for us now (after playing for Tonga in an Olympics qualifier) and there are a lot of top players out there, like Charles Piutau, Ngani Laumape, Vaea Fifita, who is now at Wasps, who would like to play for Tonga.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the pitch?
On a November tour with Tonga, one of our hookers, Aleki Lutui, was throwing the ball in at a lineout and as the ball was in the air he turned his whole body to the side as if that would help the ball go even straighter. It was just very unusual. We gave him a lot of stick for that, watching the replay in the review.
Do you have any nicknames?
Not really. The guys in France (he plays for Toulon) call me Sona or Taku.
Who are the jokers in the Tonga squad?
On the tour in the summer, Penikolo Latu was funny. He took over as the MC on the bus and it was just the way he was telling the young ones what to do and putting them on the spot in front of all the players and staff.
Any practical jokes you can tell us?
I try to do some pranks, just trying to scare team-mates by hiding around a corner and then jumping out when they walk by to give them a fright.
One of the other guys, Mateaki Kafatolu, got me and scared me pretty good. He jumped out from a bush in the dark – everyone was laughing.
What really annoys you?
The alarm going off by the pool in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping! Sometimes the wind on the water makes it go off, then I have to go out and turn it off.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Having to dance in front of everyone on my first tour with Tonga. That year you had to stand up and dance to a song. I don’t remember the song, I think they might have been singing and I had to dance, so I just stood there clapping!
Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?
Probably my wife. I could just annoy her!
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To be a healer. So I could help anyone. Maybe I’d open a clinic…
If you could be one of your team-mates, who would it be?
That’s a tough one. Maybe I’d be Jiuta Wainiqolo, the Fiji winger who plays sevens. Then I could have his gold medal! He’s a fun character too. He’s not shy, I like him, he’s a really fun person.
Who would be your three dream dinner party guests?
I’d invite my mum and dad, and my grandad. Family is very important to me and I try to go back home every off-season. I’ve got a really close family.
If your house was on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save (people and pets are safe)?
Probably my PlayStation. I play Fortnite for probably 45 minutes once or twice a week. I used to be a bit obsessed but I grew out of it.
The best advice you’ve received?
Trust God’s plan. My parents, my grandad and my wife keep saying that to me.
Do you have any surprising hidden talents?
No! I try to play the guitar but I’m still learning.
What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?
To be a qualified mechanic. I’ve got a little bit of experience of working in garages and I’ve been trying to do New Zealand courses online, but it’s pretty tough while I’m overseas. I’m trying to learn what I can and then I’d like to open up a garage when I finish playing. That’s the dream.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a humble person.
This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s November 2021 edition.
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