While we may be ‘dreaming of a white Christmas’, with snow as far as the eye can see, all Bundee Aki wants is sun, sea, and barbecues.
The Connacht rugby player hails from the south Auckland suburb of Manurewa in New Zealand, where Christmas is traditionally celebrated on a sweltering beach with family and friends.
Naturally, Santa is a central feature. But rather than pulling on heavy black boots, in New Zealand, he often appears wearing feet-cooling ‘jandals’ or sandals. Like in the northern hemisphere, children leave out carrots for the reindeers, but instead of the milk and mince pies, Santa might be left a beer and pineapple chunks.
It’s not surprising to hear that Bundee longs for his native ‘Meri Kirihimete’ at this time of year.
“I miss it, I certainly do,” says the 26-year-old.
Regardless, he is still planning a festive feast and, while he won’t be going all out with the traditional dinner, there will be plenty of ham.
“We don’t eat much turkey, but I love good ham and barbecue.”
Married to Kayla, they live in Salthill with their two daughters, Armani, 8, and Adrianna, 5, who are both in primary school. It seems they have settled in well.
“I’ve been living in Ireland for three-and-a-half years. My family only moved over this year. I’ve signed up and am due to stay here until 2019. People here are really friendly.”
He’s looking forward to a break over Christmas, but there’s little time to rest. Connacht will be tackling the might of Munster on December 31.
I’m in OK shape. In the mornings we go to the gym for about 45 minutes for a full body session and then go out and do units — for half an hour, at most — which includes all the team stuff. After lunch, we have a meeting, then head out to the field for at least an hour. This includes teamwork and skills — they just bring it all together. On an average day, we train for three hours. It’s pretty intense. We have individual programmes, depending on what we need to do — maintain weight, gain weight, lose weight. I don’t like doing fitness, but I know I have to do it.
In the morning, I’ll have a smoothie — whey protein, a bit of banana, peanut butter, honey, and oats. For lunch, the Gourmet Tart Company in Galway does nice salads. They have a chicken salad with a lot of red cabbage which is quite nice. On a good healthy day, I might have pasta and salmon for dinner.
I’m really bad with a packet of crisps and chocolate. I love Kettles and Cadbury.
What would keep you awake at night?
My phone keeps me up a bit. It’s all social media — Twitter and Instagram.
I tend to play a lot of PlayStation and lie on my couch. My favourite games are ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘FIFA’. The whole team is big into ‘FIFA’, it’s all they talk about.
Actors Dwayne Johnson and Emilia Clarke from the Game of Thrones.
Victoria Secrets perfume; my wife wears it. Also, I love the smell of roses and lilies.
There are a lot of things I could chang,e but I’m happy enough [with how I look].
A month ago when my nana passed away in New Zealand. She was 78.
I get bothered when people walk the road and walk in front of cars.
I get grumpy easily — it’s most likely tiredness.
Yes. Every night before I go to sleep I give thanks for the day. Our family is pretty religious. We’re Christian.
When the sun comes out.