Aki shows the way for Super Rugby-winning duo

Guinness PRO12 Rugby Editor

25 Aug 2016

Bundee Aki has been a key figure for Connacht. Credit: Inpho

Bundee Aki arrived at Connacht a Super Rugby champion before helping them to Guinness PRO12 glory last season so Leinster and Cardiff Blues will be expecting similar for their two arriving champions.

While Aki was a Super Rugby winner with the Chiefs, Willis Halaholo and Jamison Gibson-Park both played their part as the Hurricanes scooped their maiden title this year.

Centre Halaholo will join Cardiff after the Mitre 10 Cup, while scrum-half Gibson-Park has already linked up with Leinster.

Unsurprisingly their new clubs are expecting a lot from the Kiwi duo, and Leo Cullen even admitted that he’d be looking to pick Gibson-Park’s brain as Leinster aim to go one better than last season and win the Guinness PRO12 title at the Aviva Stadium, next May.

Speaking at the launch of the Guinness PRO12 at the Aviva Stadium, Cullen said: “Jamison landed last week so we’re just trying to make sure he’s getting over some of the bangs and niggles he had last season.

“He’s come from a very successful environment so I’ve been trying to pick his brains on some of the things they’ve been doing, so he’s been a really good addition.

“Hopefully we can get him out on the field before too long. We’ll try to get him up to speed quickly.

“He’s a very smart footballer and some of the things we do wouldn’t be that dissimilar to what we do ourselves. He’s settling in well.”

If Gibson-Park will make an immediate impact in Dublin, Blues fans will have to wait a little longer to see Halaholo, who is still in action for Waikato back in New Zealand.

But Blues coach Danny Wilson is expecting big things of the 26-year-old, even comparing him favourably to Aki, who has made such an impact for the current champions.

Wilson said: “He’s a guy we actually got to know about through Rey Lee-Lo and we spent a bit of time watching him at the games and we looked at his stats in terms of metres made, defenders beaten and he was higher than Bundee Aki, funnily enough, from the previous year.

“Granted, as an average, he hadn’t played as much rugby so we knew there was something there.

“And I think he’s slowly shown throughout that Super Rugby campaign what he’s capable of, leading to playing and obviously winning a final, which for a guy who’s still only 25, I think is quite an achievement.

“And he’s going to arrive with us with another experience that hopefully we can feed off.

“I think we certainly signed him at the right time. His value might have gone up a little bit since.”

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