It’s been three years since Levi Aumua last played Super Rugby, but Moana Pasifika’s new recruit is ready to give it another try after overcoming a protracted battle with his weight.
Former member of the Chiefs and Blues, Aumua made just four appearances in total between 2018 and 2019, all of those games came when he played for the Auckland squad three years ago.
That figure does not reflect the promise and talent he has shown in his domestic-level trade with Tasman for two stints since 2017.
A stormy midfielder who can play both second-five and centre-back, Aumua has made a name for himself in New Zealand’s NPC as a damaging ball carrier whose imposing physique has left the opposition’s defenses reeling in his wake.
Those qualities have also enabled him to play all over the world for clubs in France, Australia and Japan, but it’s where he wants to be in Super Rugby.
Aumua has had few opportunities from the Chiefs and Blues to express his authority over proceedings at that level, and Aumua is eager to make better use of his time with Moana Pasifika in their debut Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
He is confident he will do so after signing in the best shape for the pre-season after a protracted battle with his weight, which prevented him from reaching his peak during his time with the Chiefs and Blues .
“Of course I’ve always had a bit of a problem with my ongoing battle with my weight,” he said RugbyPass when asked how his experiences with the Blues and Chiefs helped him prepare for his debut campaign with Moana Pasifika.
“This is probably the best form or weight I’ve ever been in. Even though I’ve been through those teams, they’ve got me to this point where I feel good, feel myself and help other guys do the same, so I looking forward to the season .
“This is the best I’ve ever felt in my form.”
Perhaps his newly trimmed physique is a testament to Moana Pasifika’s training regime for the season, but Aumua said it took some time for him to tackle his weight, which – at his peak – was listed as 118kg in earlier stages of his career.
It wasn’t until he moved abroad to play for the Hino Red Dolphins and Toyota Shuttles Industries in Japan that he realized he needed to take action to relaunch his Super Rugby career.
“I would definitely say it was one of the big problems” [that held him back at the Chiefs and Blues]”Aumua told” RugbyPass.
“It took me a while to get my bearings, but going to Japan, playing there, gave me a little thought and I was still hungry to play Super Rugby.
“When I got into this environment it was still there, so something just clicked and I’m back here and try again.”
Now ingrained in Moana Pasifika’s set up, Aumua has his sights set on getting redemption from the two teams that released him earlier in his career.
“Certainly, especially the Blues,” Aumua said of his eagerness to beat the Chiefs and Moana Pasifika’s city rivals.
“I still have a lot of friends there” [at the Blues]but I would say the Crusaders would be one [team he’d like to beat]. Most of my Tasman friends are back with the Crusaders. Everyone wants to beat them.”
Aumua might get the chance to take on one of those teams as early as February 18, when Moana Pasifika hosts the Blues in Super Rugby Pacific’s season opener at Mt Smart Stadium.
A strong performance in that game could pave the way for a regular starting honor at the back of Moana Pasifika, where he is likely to battle for the starting honors with Solomone Kata, Danny Toala, Henry Taefu and Fine Inisi.
If he manages to keep those players at bay and keep his place in Moana Pasifika’s starting lineup, it shouldn’t be surprising that Aumua’s chances of an international call-up to Samoa or Fiji get a significant boost.
Qualifying for both countries, Aumua said that with next year’s World Cup on the horizon, this is the year he would seriously push for test rugby, although it is not yet clear which country he would choose to play for.
‘I haven’t thought about it that much. I wouldn’t say no to either team though. This is definitely the year I would consider [playing for Samoa or Fiji]. I just don’t know who I’d rather upset my mom or dad. I’ll leave it up to them.”
Before then, however, Aumua plans to help Moana Pasifika to a successful first season in Super Rugby Pacific, which he hopes the new expansion franchise will bring a source of pride to their Pacific Island supporters.
“For us we just play for the love of sport, we play for the Pacific, for our families, for our ancestors and all the people of Pacific rugby who have gone before us, so we make them proud – win or lose – would it biggest thing,” he told RugbyPass.
“For us too, we have our own rugby system, playing how we want to play and playing to our strengths. If that works for us, I think we’ll see that as a win.”
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