White Rock’s Adam Kleeberger – and his impressive facial hair – were front and centre Wednesday, as Canada’s national rugby team edged Tonga 25-20 in their opening game of the Rugby World Cup, currently underway in New Zealand.
Kleeberger, a 27-year-old Semiahmoo Secondary grad, starred as flanker for the Canadian side and was named man-of-the-match.
And while Kleeberger was starring on the pitch, his beard – seen by thousands of TV viewers on TSN, and described online as “epic” – took a starring turn of its own in social-media circles.
As the game progressed, the hashtag #kleebergersbeard began popping up on Twitter, in honour of the hirsute rugby star.
Canada took a 10-0 lead in the first half before squandering it in the second half as Tonga – ranked higher than Canada in international rankings – scored 20 of the next 23 points.
Canada scored two tries late in the game, however, to escape with the win.
“That was awesome. I’m so proud of the boys, the way they played,” Canadian captain Pat Riordan told the Associated Press. “Just awesome.”
Kleeberger has represented his country at the World Cup before, in 2007, but is taking on a much bigger role this time around.
“It’s a different experience this time around, because I’m one of the older guys on the team, but the chance to represent your country is always a huge honour,” he told Peace Arch News last month, before leaving B.C. for New Zealand.
Canada plays two-time World Cup finalist France on Sunday.