Connacht snatch Chiefs super star Aki
Connacht snatch Chiefs super star AkiSHARE
Connacht captured a major overseas signing for the 2014/15 season to further strengthen the midfield.
New Zealand-born centre Bundee Aki, 24, a member of the two-time defending Super Rugby champion Chiefs, has signed a three-year deal with the Irish province, Connacht, and the Irish Rugby Football Union.
Appearing in every national provincial championship game for Counties Manukau last year – when they won the Ranfurly Shield and made the NPC semifinals – Aki also started 12 games in midfield scoring six tries in his debut season for the Chiefs on their way to winning the title in 2013.
Aki has exploded on to the big stage under the expert tutelage of Wayne Smith, Tana Umaga and Dave Rennie – who has described the young player as "a very quick, aggressive and evasive ball carrier".
"Bundee [Aki] is a competitive character who is destructive defensively," Rennie said.
Speaking about the new signing, Connacht coach Pat Lam – the former Blues coach – said it is a "fantastic coup" for Connacht.
"It's great to be able to replace the loss of Eoin Griffin and Kyle Tonetti with the calibre of a player like Bundee," Lam said.
"He is only 24-years-old and has already shown with the Chiefs and Counties Manukau what a thrilling prospect he is for the game.
"It's very exciting to be adding him to our young Irish qualified back line here at Connacht and he will bring a real attacking edge in midfield.
"He is a hard-working and talented individual and I believe that he will greatly contribute to the Connacht culture we've been developing and the vision we have laid out for the team. We're very much looking forward to welcoming him to the team."
Aki, who starred for the Chiefs in their 22-16 victory over the Rebels at the weekend, said he was "delighted" to be able to confirm his move to Ireland.
"This is a huge opportunity for me and my family and I'm really excited by the new challenge," Aki said.
"I spoke with Pat [Lam] and was very impressed with the aspirations he and the team have for the club and its future. It's definitely something I want to be a part of
"Right now, I'm excited about getting back to playing with the Chiefs, where I've thoroughly enjoyed my time. There is a lot of rugby to be played before I start the next chapter with Connacht."
Aki will move to Connacht at the conclusion of the New Zealand NPC season.
Connacht are lying mid-table in the Pro12 competition led by Irish powerhouse Leinster a month before the play-offs.