Kupu Vanisi played in the shadow of the incumbent openside Josh Kronfeld at Otago and the Highlanders for the first stanza of his career, so his desire to unleash his wares somewhere else was only natural. For Hurricanes and Wellington Lions fans that somewhere was their region, where he immediately flourished.
Indeed the lively openside flanker and expert ball fetcher made the All Blacks after his first campaign with the Hurricanes in 1999, albeit for one internal non-international match against New Zealand A in Christchurch. Nevertheless it was good reward for Vanisi who had previously played 36 times for Otago between 1994-1998 and 23 times for the Highlanders between 1996-1998.
He gelled at the Hurricanes and for Wellington between 1999-2003 alongside a bevy of similar styled loose forwards such as Filo Tiatia and Andrew Blowers, and latterly Jerry Collins and Rodney So’oialo. He finished with 43 games for the Hurricanes, despite missing most of 2001 to injury, and 45 for Wellington by the time he left in 2003 for a three-year stint playing in Japan.
Post rugby, Vanisi has been heavily involved in martial arts.
Kupu’s father Vainikolo Vanisi toured New Zealand with the Tongan team in 1969 as a strapping wing, playing in 11 matches on tour. The effervescent Kupu was also born in the Friendly Islands, but the family moved to Dunedin in the 1970s.