Blues hooker fit and raring to go

By James Perry

Former Māori All Black hooker Leni Apisai is feeling fitter than ever and ready to fight for a regular spot in the Blues super rugby season.

He has been working hard over the off-season to recover from a knee injury that cut short his Mitre 10 campaign with the Wellington Lions last year and robbed him of any chance of touring with the Māori All Blacks in the USA and South America.

"Yeah, nah I'm hissing, eh!" he told Te Kāea, "Probably in the best shape I've been in a while."

He credits the strength and conditioning team at the Blues, "they've pushed me during this pre-season and I'm ready to play some footy instead of running some laps."

Apisai, originally from Porirua in the Wellington region, joined the Blues last season and is enjoying his second season in Auckland. 

He's hoping to add to the handful of games he played last year but knows it will be hard behind two experienced hookers in former captain James Parsons and Matt Moulds. 

"[There's a] great team here, you always want to be a part of a good legacy," the 22-year-old says, "I'll be pushing to get some more game time this year, I got six or whatever but I would've liked to get more and secure a regular spot." 

The former NZ U20 captain headed north to the Blues last year when the Hurricanes couldn't fit him in to their squad, with Dane Coles, Ricci Riccitelli and Asafo Aumua taking up the three hooking spots.

The then-Blues head coach Tana Umaga got in touch with Apisai and told him "they had a spot for me, and that potentially if all goes well and I play some good footy then I could potentially get some decent game time," he says. 

Despite being only 22, Apisai has a load of experience under his belt, making his Mitre 10 Cup debut as an 18 year in 2014.

The Ngāti Awa descendant was selected in the Māori All Blacks in 2016, and while it is unknown what the Māori All Black program for 2019 looks like at this stage, Apisai is keen to push his case for selection again. 

"But for the moment [I'll] just be focusing on the Blues and get some minutes with the Blues and we'll go from there," he says.