Versatile Nareki raring to go for Otago

Otago winger Jona Nareki. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago winger Jona Nareki. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Jona Nareki has been living the dream - travelling the world, playing sport and winning world titles.

Nareki, though, has not forgotten his bread and butter - playing well for the blue and golds.

The nippy left winger will line up for Otago tonight as it takes on Northland in a Mitre 10 Cup match.

Nareki (20) has been all action for Otago, continuing on from a season during which he played for the New Zealand sevens side, part of the team which won the World Cup in late July.

Nareki said he loved the sevens experience, where he was based in Tauranga for most of the year.

"You get to travel the world and play a different sport. It is sevens. It is faster and fitness is a bit more intense than 15s," he said.

"You do a lot more running. You've got to get that speed under your belt . . . each week we have this day when it is all just speed. So everything is real quick, high intensity. Just build your legs up to be conditioned for sevens rugby.

"I have spewed four times . . . the 150s [runs] get you. It was real hot and I did not help myself by eating before training," Nareki said.

"I feel way fitter than I did this time last year. My biggest learning was what I put in my body and how it helps me the next day. It is no more fish and chips, no more takeaways. It is a strict diet.

"The first month I thought I could burn it off. But after a while you start feeling your body and you have to get it right to make the most of the next day."

Nareki had a disappointing start to his fulltime sevens career, as he broke his thumb which put him out for
three months.

He recovered in time to play in tournaments in Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Paris earlier this year before being part of the World Cup-winning squad in San Francisco.

"San Francisco was amazing. To win a World Cup, something that I will cherish forever.

"The last time I watched the Sevens World Cup I was only 16 and still at school. So to be able to go to the next one was pretty special for me. I did not play much. I dislocated my rib but it was good to get out there."

So what is the trick to sevens success?

Nareki said it was pretty basic.

"You've got to be super fit and having that speed and the skills to be a forward and a back . . . to be able to clean rucks and be quick around the park. But I'm too small to be a forward."

Nareki had some time off after the World Cup but is now back and firing for Otago.

He scored a try against Manawatu last Saturday in front of his mum and dad as his family still live in Whanganui.

"I love coming back down to Dunedin and playing 15s, especially for Otago."

The winger is a key for Otago tonight as, back on home ground, it needs to take every chance that comes along.

To get anywhere in the Mitre 10 Cup championship, two things are clear - sides must do well against fellow championship teams and also win home games.

Otago has dropped a match against Hawkes Bay and can ill afford to lose tonight.

The game will be played tonight at 5.45pm, not Saturday as published yesterday.

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