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Although he was born in Hamilton and brought up in Raglan, Mr Pene became a well known Dunedinite when he came south as a strapping young buck to study physical education and marketing at the University of Otago.
While playing club rugby, he was selected for the Otago rugby team in 1988, and by 1992, he was an All Black.
After finishing his study and retiring from the All Blacks in 1994 and Otago in 1995, he left Dunedin in 1996 to play professional rugby in Japan.
During a nine-year stint, he played for Kaneka Rugby Union (near Kobe) and Sanix (in Fukuoka).
These days, Mr Pene (44) lives back in Hamilton. Yet his love of the Otago rugby team and Speight's beer has not evaporated.
He co-owns and manages the Speight's Ale House there, and at first glance, many would say a career in hospitality is a big side-step from a life of professional rugby.
But Mr Pene disagrees.
"You still operate as a team. I consider the kitchen staff to be the forwards, and the front of house is the backs.
"Front of house gets all the glory for all the work done in the kitchen. It's the same in rugby," he says without tongue in cheek.
"Running a restaurant is a challenge like anything else, but it's the team work that makes it easier."
He says restaurants and bars are popular venues for sports team functions, and he himself has learnt a lot about the art of hospitality from his days as a rugby player.
Dedication and a strong work ethic learnt from being a professional sportsman have also stood him in good stead as a business owner, he says.
Although he no longer plays rugby, his 13-, 11- and 9-year-old sons do, and he is now content just being a spectator - even at his daughter's soccer and softball matches.
"I'm just a vocal parent and staunch supporter of Otago rugby."
Mr Pene says he misses rugby, but enjoys reliving the glory days during his regular catch-ups with former team mates like Jamie Joseph, Stu Forster, Paul Cooke, Marc Ellis, Josh Kronfeld, John Leslie, David Latta and John Timu.
Otago blood still runs thick in his veins, he says.