Bundee seizes opportunity

Getty Images     06 Mar 2013     Getty Images

Just over a year ago, second five-eighths Bundee Aki was working as a bank teller while playing for Championship winners Counties Manukau in the ITM Cup.

Such was his form that he had to swap the bank uniform for the black, yellow and red uniform of the Chiefs - and he hasn't looked back.

The hard worker was shocked when he was given the No.12 jersey for his side's first-up 41-27 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin.

To have retained the jersey for another week in another big win - this time 45-3 demolition of the Cheetahs - was just as big a moment for one of the jokers in the Chiefs franchise.

"I am surprised with the starts - I never thought I'd actually be here and starting for the past few games."

Aki has looked all the more like a Super Rugby player as time goes on, but admitted he is still learning a lot when it comes to taking a step up in intensity and quality that feature in Super Rugby.

"It's a big step up from ITM," said Aki. "It's a bigger, faster tempo. That's probably the hardest thing, is trying to get my head around that pace."

He puts his on-field success down to a number of things. Aki is a very spiritual man and acknowledges God during the interview alongside his family, friends and coaching staff at the franchise.

There are also a number of experienced players who have helped guide him towards his successful foray into professional rugby.

Senior guys around me Cruds [Aaron Cruden], Sam [Cane], Timmy [Tim Nanai Williams] – they've all done it so have their support has got me to where I am now."

While preparing for the Stormers on Saturday is a big task, Aki admitted he has been back to visit the bank he used to work for.

"They're all happy days and they're all backing me up so that's good."

No doubt all of his former colleagues will be watching his performances in Durban on Saturday - with interest.