Kata joins the Chiefs
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs have bolstered their attacking options ahead of the new 2022/23 season with the addition of Tongan international Solomone Kata.
The 27-year-old is Rob Baxter’s fifth new signing of the summer, following Leinster duo Jack Dunne and Rory O’Loughlin and South Africans Aidon Davis and Ruben Van Heerden to Sandy Park.
Initially signed on a one-year deal, the powerful back arrives in Devon from Super Rugby franchise, Moana Pasifika, and immediately offers a huge physical threat to the Chiefs back division.
Born in Neiafu in Tonga, Kata moved to New Zealand in 2011 to take up a rugby scholarship at Sacred Heart College in Auckland. And it didn’t take long for his talents to be spotted, linking up with National Rugby League sides, New Zealand Warriors and then Melbourne Storm, before switching to the 15-man game.
That move took him across Australia to Canberra, where he spent two seasons with the Brumbies, teaming up with former Chief, Nic White, before moving to the Moana Pasifika for this season’s Super Rugby competition.
Now, he’s ready to unleash his hard-running, direct and speedy threat on the Northern Hemisphere, joining a Chiefs side who are busy readying themselves for their seasonal opener against reigning champions Leicester Tigers on Saturday, September 10.
“It’s a big move for me and my family,” said Kata, who has represented Tonga at both League and Union level. “Coming in today, the boys have been very welcoming and I’m really looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
Having faced England in the Autumn Internationals last season, Kata is expecting the next chapter in his career to test him out.
“I’ve watched a few games and I know it’s really physical here in the UK,” he added. “I like that, it plays to my strengths. I don’t have a fancy step or anything like that, I just like to go through people and enjoy the contact. Apart from that, I don’t know too much more about what to expect!”
One man delighted to see Kata arrival in Devon is Chiefs’ Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, who admitted this morning that he is excited at what his new arrival will bring to the squad.
“He’s explosive, he’s dangerous and he’s a quality player,” said Baxter. “Obviously, he’s just got it so he will take a few days to get up to speed, but you can tell by meeting him that he’s already settling in well to the group and will give us those options we need in midfield.
“It’s no secret that Ollie Devoto is still some way away from returning, Henry [Slade] and Hendo [Tom Hendrickson] are still recovering from operations too, so we were looking a bit thin in that area. That said, when a guy of Sol’s quality comes onto the market, we had a good look at him – we liked what we saw – and we’ve brought him here. It’s over to him now to get on the field and show us what he can do.
“Talking to him, you get that feeling that’s he’s up for a new challenge. He’s here now and he’s ready to go. In an ideal world, we would have liked to have signed him for more than a year, but he said ‘I’ll take the year, I’ll take my chance’ because he does think he will take-off over here. We will see what happens then.
“Personally, I quite like that because he is challenging himself to come over here and go really well. Already I’m looking forward to seeing him on the field because I do believe he will offer us something a bit different.”