Waimate rugby coach Kilifi Fangupo is hoping third time’s a charm tomorrow.
Since Fangupo took the reins as coach of the senior Waimate side in 2018, alongside North Otago’s Tai Halalele and Pelenapa Mafi, the team has finished second and third in the premier South Canterbury competition.
Tomorrow, his side takes on defending champion Temuka in the Hamersley Cup final at Alpine Energy Stadium at 3pm, after defeating Mackenzie 33-9 in last weekend’s semifinal.
Despite being one of the more consistent sides over the past 10 years, Waimate has not managed to win a championship since 1995.
Fangupo said winning the final would mean a lot, but the players had to focus on doing their jobs.
“The boys have been training well; all the hard work is done,” Fangupo said.
“There is just one game left. Anything can happen in a final.”
It is Fangupo’s final year in charge of the Waimate side. His family has moved to Dunedin, where his wife, Louise, is completing a doctorate in nutrition.
Halalele and Mafi are also stepping down, to spend more time with their young families.
“I’m going to miss this place. I’m going to miss the boys, I’m going to miss the people,” Fangupo said.
“This week is going to feel emotional for me and my family.”
Fangupo started his coaching career early, after an injury cut his playing days short.
He coached Oamaru’s Old Boys to win four Citizens Shields, and had stints at the helm of North Otago women’s and age-grade teams.
“Coaching in Waimate is different to Old Boys – an Islander coaching a bunch of white boys,” he said.
“I hope the boys learned something different. I learned heaps from my coaching in Waimo.”
After a session with mental skills coach Kate Finn, who stressed the importance of team culture, Fangupo came up with some Waimate team songs to reflect the different cultures in the team.
“Even though it’s a Tongan hymn, a Samoan or Maori song, everyone wants to buy in.
“A big part of a winning team is having a really good culture.
“Everyone wants to sing the song after the game in the bus. I just smile, or go to the back and join in. I’m super happy with the culture we have and hope it keeps going for a long time.”
Fangupo intends to continue coaching rugby, possibly with a First XV side next year.