Pifeleti aiming to emulate cousins and bring more silverware to Sarries
Kapeli Pifeleti has lofty ambitions over the coming years, and at only 22-years-old he has more than enough time to make his mark both domestically and internationally.
The hooker, who has incredible rugby pedigree through his family connections to the Vunipola’s has already made huge progress since joining the Academy at the age of 18, and he now wants to put his foot down and become a regular at StoneX Stadium.
Pifeleti, who has already made 31 appearances for Saracens is having to be patient with the likes of Jamie George and Tom Woolstencroft also in his position, but he insists that even during training he is getting incredible exposure to top level rugby.
“It is either a Tuesday or a Wednesday that we have our full intensity sessions. We joke and we call it Test match Tuesdays or World Cup Wednesday, and these sessions are pretty much full go.
To do that every week is not easy, but slowly you become a better player for it, even though you might not be playing. Just training against these guys might as well be a game itself.”
The Tongan-born hooker, whose father represented his country used to watch his cousins Billy and Mako from afar, and admits he has to pinch himself when he lines up alongside them in the tunnel.
“I always used to watch them in Prem finals, in European finals or whatever big games,” Pifeleti said. “I never thought I’d play rugby for a living, because I didn’t think I’d move over to England and then then I did, I always dreamt of playing with them or following in their footsteps, but I never thought I’d actually do it.
“It seemed too unrealistic. I was back at home, waking up at 06:00 to watch their games, and I thought that was as far as I could go. They used to send over some of the Sarries kit and I used to wear the kit with their initials on it, thinking ‘how good is this?’, not knowing that one day I’d have my own, my own Sarries kit with my initials and my squad number on it. It is crazy”
“When I first joined Sarries, out of school at 18, I questioned why they had signed me. I thought I was alright at rugby, but I never thought I’d be able to play for Sarries, because they had done the double the year before, and I didn’t see myself playing for this team.”
He hasn’t looked back since then though and his abrasive ball-carrying is become more of a regular sight in North London, which he praised the club for after another success story from the Academy.
“From then, to where I am now, I don’t know how they do it, because they see things in players that players don’t see in themselves, which is credit to Sarries and the culture they have. They invest in their Academy and turn Academy players into internationals and world class players.”
Pifeleti made his USA debut in 2019 after spending a season with the San Diego Legion, and now one of his big motivations is to prove himself in the 2023 World Cup in France.
“I absolutely love playing for the USA,” He said. “Now I am properly in the group, whereas the year when I made my debut, I was in, but I didn’t feel like I was fully in.
“Now I feel like I am ready to play international rugby, I feel like my body is physically ready, but mentally as well. More than that, I enjoy being there with the boys. I have got a lot closer, not only with the Islanders, but with everyone and I think we have a good shot.”
The hooker has plenty of time ahead of him, and if he keeps progressing in his current trend he may well be a staple in the Sarries line-up for years to come.