Api­sai to lead New Zealand un­der-20s

Kapi-Mana News - - CLASSIFIED CLASSIFIED - KRIS DANDO

Leni Api­sai is al­ready be­ing hit up for match tick­ets to the world un­der-20 rugby cham­pi­onship in Bri­tain in June.

The North­ern United, Welling­ton Lions and Hur­ri­canes hooker was named as New Zealand un­der-20 cap­tain this month. He said it was ex­cit­ing and hum­bling to be asked by coach Scott Robert­son to lead the side for up­com­ing matches against Aus­tralia and to the worlds.

‘‘It’s a huge hon­our to put on that black jer­sey,’’ he said. ‘‘When I got the phone call [from Robert­son] I was over­whelmed, but I know I’ve worked pretty hard to get here.’’

The 20-year-old said the calls were al­ready com­ing in from friends and fam­ily to source tick­ets to the tour­na­ment in Manch­ester, where New Zealand are de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons. ‘‘I’m pop­u­lar at the mo­ment.’’ The sec­ond-year Hur­ri­canes rake got his op­por­tu­nity to start this sea­son’s Su­per Rugby cam­paign af­ter an in­jury to starter and All Black Dane Coles and backup Motu Matu’u.

Api­sai took the chance with both hands and showed what he could do.

‘‘I’m com­fort­able in this en­vi­ron­ment now and it’s a great squad to be a part of. But I know I need to keep it up and take noth­ing for granted.’’

He knows what that means fol­low­ing a se­ri­ous con­cus­sion last year. It ru­ined much of his sea­son, in­clud­ing the chance to travel to Italy for the world un­der20 cham­pi­onship.

Api­sai grew up in As­cot Park, and at­tended Rangikura School and Aotea Col­lege, be­fore spend­ing his last year of sec­ondary school at Welling­ton Col­lege.

He made New Zealand Sec­ondary Schools in 2013 and de­buted for the Lions a year later.

He was in the Norths side that lost the Hard­ham Cup fi­nal in 2014 and said get­ting back to Porirua Park to play or sup­port his home club would al­ways be im­por­tant.

‘‘That [2014] sea­son was my first proper taste of club rugby and it hard­ened me up. I only had a cou­ple of runs last year for Norths and just the one against Poneke this year [on April 9], but I love get­ting back when I can.

‘‘You’re play­ing with guys who don’t do rugby for a job. They just want to play the game with their mates and have fun, and it’s good for me to ex­pe­ri­ence that.’’

PHOTO: HUR­RI­CANES

Leni Api­sai can’t wait to cap­tain his country this year.

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