Former Tonga international and renowned New Zealand commentator, Willie Los’e, has passed at the age of 55 last night in Cape Town and in the midst of Tongan Language week celebrations in New Zealand.
Los’e, who worked for Sky Sport NZ, was in Cape Town at the time of his passing, in preparation to commentate on the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament set to take place at the DHL Stadium this weekend.
It is understood that Los’e passed away from a medical event, reports New Zealand’s Stuff website.
His employers confirmed his death in a social media post.
“We are very sorry to hear that Willie Los’e passed away last night in South Africa. Willie was a long-serving and highly-regarded member of the Sky Sport Commentary team and the wider Sky family. Our thoughts and condolences are with Willie’s whanau at this time,” Sky Sport NZ posted on Twitter.
His family also confirmed his death in a statement:
“The Los’e whanau would like to thank Karl Te Nana, Bailey Mackey and World Rugby boss Steve Jamison for contacting us directly from South Africa this morning relating to the sudden passing of our brother Willie.
“We ask that as a whanau, we be given time to process and work through our devastating loss and the logistics of repatriation of our brother, father, uncle, and son back home. We are awaiting details from Cape Town.
“Thanks to Steve Jamieson who has spoken to the New Zealand High Commission, who will be heading to Cape Town tomorrow to help with the repatriation of Willie’s body to bring him home to Aotearoa.
“We as a whanau are thankful to all Willie’s friends from around the world who have sent their condolences and support.
“Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou.”- Thank you very much
Deemed one of rugby’s “good guys” by former All Black and fellow North Harbour teammate, Frank Bunce, Los’e played for the New Zealand under-21 side and later captained Tonga at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, playing in all three pool games.
According to News 24, He played as a loose forward and as a lock, Los’e represented Auckland, North Harbour, and Marlborough in the Old Provincial Championship from 1990 to 2001, as well as an eight-season stint in Japan before dominating behind the microphone as a radio host and rugby commentator.
Amongst a heartfelt tribute post on Twitter from the sports outlet at which he worked, many tributes from rugby greats, fellow commentators, rugby friends, and countless fans have flooded social media platforms expressing their praise and condolences for the “loved and respected” broadcaster.
A tribute to the wise, warm and wonderful Willie Los’e from his friends, fans and whānau at Sky 💔🕊 pic.twitter.com/WpI1wjM9Mj
— Sky Sport NZ (@skysportnz) September 8, 2022
So sad to hear that our great mate Willie Los’e has passed away in Cape Town while preparing to call @WorldRugby7s. So many great memories on the 7s commentary circuit. Another gone too soon. Thoughts are with his Family and many friends. RIP Willie
— Greg Clark (@greg_clarkie) September 8, 2022
On the field he was tough and uncompromising, off it he was a respected and renowned voice. Willie Los’e, you will be missed by the rugby family.
Rest in Peace Willie. 🖤🇹🇴 pic.twitter.com/fYkP6SPecS
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 8, 2022
We’re incredibly saddened to hear of the death of the much-loved rugby commentator Willie Los’e
An internationally-capped player in his younger years, many of rugby sevens’ greatest moments would later be soundtracked by his instantly recognisable voice
May he rest in peace ❤️ pic.twitter.com/OpAJ1pBdwe
— Rugby World Cup 7s 2022 (@WorldRugby7s) September 8, 2022
The Rugby World lost a really, really special one today in Willie Los’e. He showed many of us the way in commentary and was always smiling when he did. A great man who genuinely loved the game and who will be deeply and sadly missed.
— Sean Maloney (@seanny202) September 8, 2022
Picture: @skyportnz / Twitter