Ben Smith Highlanders name Tongan hitman Zane Kapeli in 2020 Super Rugby squad

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New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey discusses the panel selected to choose the next All Blacks coach.

The Highlanders have unveiled Tongan hitman Zane Kapeli and promising Wellington loose forward Teariki Ben-Nicholas as part of a revamped 2020 Super Rugby squad that features 15 new faces.

The Highlanders lost a wealth of experience at the end of the 2019 season and were forced to recruit heavily but they have pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the signing of Kapeli, who produced one of the hits of the Rugby World Cup on England No 8 Billy Vunipola.

Ben Smith Tonga loose forward Zane Kapeli came highly recommended to the Highlanders by Pita Alatini.

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Tonga loose forward Zane Kapeli came highly recommended to the Highlanders by Pita Alatini.

​Kapeli, 27, was one of the few men who could stop Vunipola on the gainline in Japan to bolster his reputation as a fearsome defender and Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said his signing was a “no brainer”.

“One thing we were looking for was players with a clear point of difference.” Mauger said. 

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“Zane’s one of those guys who has massive intent around the collision, he’s very dominant there.

“We think he is just going to get better and better. There’s plenty of upside with Zane.

“He a fantastic character as well. He comes really highly recommended by the Tongan staff.

Ben Smith Zane Kapeli smashes Billy Vunipola in one of the tackles of the Rugby World Cup.

DAVID ROGERS/GETTY IMAGES

Zane Kapeli smashes Billy Vunipola in one of the tackles of the Rugby World Cup.

“[Former All Blacks and Highlanders midfielder] Pita Alatini was a key conduit there and couldn’t speak highly enough as Zane as a person and once we had a closer look at the things he was doing out on the field it was a no brainer for us.”

With the departure of Liam Squire,

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