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Uhila rises to top in Hurricanes triumph

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/08/2016 Angelo Risso

If you told Hurricanes loosehead Loni Uhila he'd be a Super Rugby champion 12 months ago, he would've punched you in the face.

Yet the 122kg prop's journey from a Tongan village to the pinnacle of club rugby reached its zenith on Saturday with his side's 20-3 victory over the Lions.

The 27-year-old went pro for the Hurricanes at the start of 2016 after toiling away in the Mitre 10 Cup for Waikato.

Uhila told NZN he juggled rugby training, boxing, family life and work at a warehouse on his steady climb to the top.

"I'd still be at work at Prolife Foods and unloading containers and coming home excited to watch the final," he said when asked where he was this time last year.

"To make it this far in such a small amount of time is special and a blessing for me and my family."

Uhila was thrust into the Hurricanes starting line-up for the side's quarter-final thumping of the Sharks after Reggie Goodes' concussion in the previous week.

The Tongan Bear has since proved his worth in the No.1 jersey through hard running, tackling and solid work in the scrum.

Alongside his teammates, Uhila managed to keep the Hurricanes' opposition tryless in all three Super Rugby 2016 finals matches.

But he said the grand final was the toughest match of all.

"We all know the South African sides love their forwards and their set pieces and stuff like that, it was pretty tough and grinding," Uhila said.

"I was a bit beaten up last night and a little sore this morning."

Uhila hopes his late-season Hurricanes form can attract the interest of Tonga selectors and help fulfil his dream of playing for the `Ikale Tahi in a World Cup.

But in the meantime he'll be returning to the Mitre 10 Cup with Waikato.

"Wherever rugby will take me, I'll grab it and give it 110 per cent," he said.

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