Connacht sign former New Zealand Sevens player Pita Ahki

Eroni Vasiteri’s move was shelved after he was handed a nine week ban for eye gouging

Pita Ahki in action for New Zealand during the Paris Sevens last year. Photograph: Dan Mullan - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Pita Ahki in action for New Zealand during the Paris Sevens last year. Photograph: Dan Mullan - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

 

Connacht Rugby have confirmed the signing of former New Zealand Sevens player Pita Ahki to replace Fijian Eroni Vasiteri.

Vasiteri’s move to Connacht was shelved this week after he was handed a nine week ban for eye gouging in Australia.

Kieran Keane said Connacht were on the look-out for another quality centre, and Ahki fits that bill. The former Blues centre has bags of experience, having represented both Tonga and New Zealand at Under-20 level, he also won a silver medal with the New Zealand Sevens in the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Auckland-born, the 25-years-old midfielder made his name first with North Harbour before he was snapped up by the Blues. He made 13 caps for the Auckland franchise before his move to the Hurricanes, but after an unproductive spell in the New Zealand capital, he recently joined Keane’s former club Waikato.

Noted as a strong runner with pace, Ahki is expected to fill the void of Bundee Aki, who is involved in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad.

Ahki is engaged to NZ Sevens player Kayla McAlister, sister of former All Black Luke, and the couple, who plan to marry this Christmas, have one child.

Commenting on the new signing, Keane said: “Pita is a highly-rated young player who has played Super Rugby for the Blues and the Hurricanes. He is a strong pacey player who will add to our attacking options. I think he will fit in well at Connacht and I am delighted to be welcoming him to the province.”

Speaking on his move to the Sportsground, Ahki said: “I am really excited about my move to Connacht. I am looking forward to the prospect of playing European and Pro14 rugby. Connacht have developed a huge reputation as a proud club with community central to everything they do. I can’t wait to join up with the squad and meet the Sportsground crowd.”

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