Leni Chris Anitoni Apisai (born 8 March 1996) is a New Zealand rugby union player who currently plays as a hooker for Wellington in New Zealand's domestic Mitre 10 Cup and the Blues in the international Super Rugby competition.
|Full name||Leni Chris Anitoni Apisai|
|Date of birth||8 March 1996|
|Place of birth||Porirua, New Zealand|
|Height||182 cm (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||108 kg (238 lb; 17 st 0 lb)|
|Rugby union career|
Born in the town of Porirua in the greater Wellington metropolitan area, Apisai was educated at Aotea College in his hometown before later moving to Wellington College where he played first XV rugby. During his high school years, he turned out for Wellington at age group level and captained their under-16 side.
Aged just 18, Apisai first played provincial rugby for Wellington during the 2014 ITM Cup, making 2 appearances including 1 start. The campaign was not a happy one for the Lions as they were relegated down to the Championship division for the 2015 season after recording just 1 win in 10 games.
Wellington were unable to gain promotion back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, finishing 2nd behind Hawke's Bay on the Championship log before being defeated 26-25 by the same opposition in the playoff final. Although the season was one of disappointment for his team, for Apisai personally, it saw him take advantage of Motu Matu'u's involvement with Samoa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup to establish himself as the Lions first choice in the number 2 jersey, playing all 12 games during the season and scoring 2 tries.
Matu'u departed for Gloucester prior to the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup leaving Apisai unchallenged as Wellington's main hooker for the year. He played 10 of their 11 games during the year and helped himself to 3 tries as they once again finished 2nd in the Championship, this time behind Otago and were then surprisingly defeated 40-37 at home by North Harbour in the playoff semi-finals with his 11th minute try scored in vain.
After just 2 provincial appearances for Wellington, Apisai was named as part of the Hurricanes wider training group ahead of the 2015 Super Rugby season. Unsurprisingly given his tender years and lack of top-level experience, he was unable to get on the field at any point during the year, taking the role of the franchise's fourth choice rake behind; Dane Coles, Motu Matu'u and Brayden Mitchell.
Doors began to open for him ahead of the 2016 season with Mitchell leaving after his short-term contract had expired and Coles and Matu'u both being struck down by injury in pre-season. Apisai was left temporarily as the 'Canes first choice number 2 and debuted in week 1 of the season, a 52-10 defeat away to the Brumbies. This heavy defeat was in stark contrast to what followed throughout the rest of the year as the 'Canes bounced back to lift the Super Rugby title in August with a 20-3 win over the Lions. Apisai started the first 3 games of the year and played a total of 5 matches in his first season as a member of the franchise's senior squad.
Apisai signed to the Blues for the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Apisai was a New Zealand Schools representative in 2013 and was later captained the New Zealand Under-20 side which finished 5th in the 2016 World Rugby Under 20 Championship in England, scoring 1 try in 5 matches.
In October 2016 Apisai, who affiliates to the Ngāti Awa iwi, was named in the Māori All Blacks squad for their end-of-year tour to the Northern Hemisphere. He debuted as a 75th minute replacement for the Māori captain Ash Dixon in a 27-14 defeat by Munster on 11 November 2016.
Super Rugby StatisticsEdit
- As of 24 January 2017
- "Leni Apisai Hurricanes Player Profile". Hurricanes Rugby. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
- "Leni Apisai Wellington Lions Player Profile". Wellington Lions. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
- "Hurricanes 2017 Squad Guide" (PDF). All Blacks.com. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
- "Leni Apisai itsrugby.co.uk Player Statistics". itsrugby.co.uk. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
- "Wellington hooker Leni Apisai is a real quiet rugby achiever". Rugby Heaven. 4 October 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
- "Coles out of Hurricanes Super Rugby opener". Radio NZ. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
- "Leni Apisai Maori All Blacks Player Profile". All Blacks.com. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
- "2013 NZ Schools team named". All Blacks.com. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
- "Younger brothers of All Blacks named in under-20s squad". New Zealand Herald. 10 May 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
- "Leni Apisai to captain under-20s after breakout year". New Zealand Herald. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
- "Six new caps named in Maori All Blacks". RNZ News. 25 October 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
- "Munster defeat Maori All Blacks 27-14 in Ireland". Rugby Heaven. 12 November 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017.