Having had stints at three main NRL clubs – the Newcastle Knights, the Parramatta Eels and the New Zealand Warriors – a new chapter will begin in Api Pewhairangi’s life, after he opted to move to rugby union.
Pewhairangi, who currently plays for the New Zealand Warriors in the NSW Cup, will head to Irish rugby union side Connacht at the end of the season.
It is somewhat of a return home for the former Manawatu youth, who qualifies as an Irish international due to the grandparent rule – his grandmother is Irish.
The utility back represented Ireland in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and is pleased to have the chance to play in his grandmother’s homeland.
“I am proud to be returning to Ireland, my grandmotherâ€™s homeland, said Pewhairangi.
“Joining Connacht is extremely exciting for me and I want to make a big impact.”
Willie Ruane, CEO of Connacht, knows how much of an honour it was for Pewhairangi to wear the green jersey of Ireland, and hopes he can have similar pride in the Connacht jersey.
“Api was incredibly proud to wear the green shirt of Ireland in the Rugby League World Cup and I have no doubt that he will wear the green shirt of Connacht Rugby with the same pride,” said Ruane.
With rugby union in his blood, the move is a welcome one for Pewhairangi, as Connacht head coach Pat Lam knows the potential for the utility back and expects him to succeed.
â€œAt 23, Api has already achieved a lot on and off the field,” said Lam.
“He has played in the tough NRL competition, represented Ireland in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and graduated with Bachelor of Arts degree. He is keen for a new challenge in transitioning back to rugby union where he spent his youth playing.
“With our big focus on skill development and continued learning and understanding of the game here at Connacht Rugby, I have no doubt he will have a great opportunity to meet his challenge head on.
His professional rugby league experience will add another skill set to the squad and we look forward to him joining the squad for pre-season.â€