Rugby: Fitness key for 'LPS' Seiuli

Otago prop Aki Seiuli trains with the Otago team at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago prop Aki Seiuli trains with the Otago team at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Aki Seiuli admits the legs are somewhat tired.

But the mind is willing and the motor will grind into gear again come Sunday.

Seiuli, Otago's 21-year-old loosehead prop, is one of the few players in the ITM Cup, for any province, to have played every minute of every game so far.

In these days of rest and rotation, it is rare for players to play every game of the season.

Especially those who play in the front row, where players have to mix the toughness of scrummaging with the ability to get around the field.

Seiuli is managing both well this season, and injuries to other props have led to him being a mainstay for Otago this season.

''A few of the boys kid me that I am the LPS - last prop standing.

"But I reckon playing a full club season has really helped me. Helped get the fitness levels up,'' Seiuli said.

''At the start of the season, even before the club season started, Blocker [Otago trainer Karl Bloxham] had us working hard, doing lots of shuttles.

"He upped the intensity of them, got us doing crossfit circuits and got us up to the standards we needed.

''It has really helped. I don't think I would have been able to play seven 80-minute games without that block of fitness training.

''It is really tough, though. Especially against Waikato last week. At halftime I felt quite tired. The game was faster than normal.''

Seiuli, first played for Otago in 2012, his first year out of school, after captaining Timaru Boys' High School from the front row.

He headed south for a course at Otago Polytechnic to learn how to be a personal trainer.

''I wasn't expecting much out of rugby, really. My mind was just on doing the course and then see where that took me.''

But Otago assistant coach Phil Young saw his potential and got Seiuli into the Otago academy, and he has made every post a winner since.

A knee injury slowed his progress last year but he is injury-free this year on the back of a successful club season for Taieri.

''I've been lucky this year, as a few of the other props have had injuries, so I suppose I have been the last prop standing.

"Plus the way the game is, with only one prop reserve, someone has to stay on and play the game.

''You do feel it. Now the legs are still a bit sore. But I know they will come right in the next couple of days and I'll be ready for the next game.''

Seiuli actually played tighthead prop at school and could play there if asked, but for now is set on making the crack to the next level.

He trained with the Highlanders for six weeks over the past season and was on the reserves bench against the Hurricanes in Wellington but did not get on the field.

He is aiming high for the rest of the season and working hard on his scrummaging.

Next up for Seiuli and the Otago side is a tough assignment - against Tasman in Nelson on Sunday.

''It is going to be a hard game. Tasman have been playing well. But we have to prepare well, get our mental side of the game right and work hard all game.''


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