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Bundee Aki 'extremely apologetic' after his red card for Connacht

The Ireland centre was sent off during Saturday’s defeat to the Stormers.

Aki saw red in the second half.
Aki saw red in the second half.

CONNACHT VICE-CAPTAIN Bundee Aki has apologised to his team-mates after being red-carded during last weekend’s URC defeat to the Stormers.

The Ireland international was sent off for a dangerous clearout to the head of Stormers wing Seabelo Senatla in the second half of Connacht’s 38-15 loss in Stellenbosch.

Aki remonstrated with referee Gianluca Gnecchi on the pitch and continued to protest on the sideline afterwards.

The 32-year-old is now facing a ban, having also previously been sent off twice for Ireland for high tackles that involved head contact. Aki was red-carded against Samoa in 2019 and England in 2021.

Connacht assistant coach Dewald Senekal revealed this afternoon that Aki has been apologetic over the incident.

“The red card was a big old 14-point swing because it was a nice action to get us over the tryline but unfortunately in the modern game, we know from the start of the season that it’s something World Rugby has clamped down on a lot,” said Senekal.

“Back in my day I would have gotten away with a few of those but unfortunately with the new rules and how that’s being managed… three or four centimetres to the left and it would maybe be a different outcome but at this stage, it’s a red card.

“Bundee has been extremely apologetic about it. In the moment, we all know him and love him to bits for his useful energy. He might have reacted wrongfully towards the ref in that moment but I think he was just looking for a clear response from the ref.

“He has been with us this whole week, he is trying to help the boys to prepare as well as we can for the next game.”

Aki has been a major talisman for Connacht since joining in 2014 and has, of course, delivered many superb performances in the green jersey. 

That makes it all the more difficult for the Ireland international to have let his team down. He will now miss Friday’s clash with the Bulls, is also likely to be suspended for the upcoming inter-pros against Munster and Leinster, and could be banned for longer.

“Bundee loves Connacht rugby, every day he comes in and brings energy. He always wants the team to do well,” said Senekal.

“Even last year in pre-season when he wasn’t supposed to be training with us at stages, he is always on the field coaching the boys and pushing them from behind. He always wants to have positive influences for the province because he loves it so much.

“Often in games when he’s 24th or 25th man, all of a sudden you’ll hear him on the coaches’ radio because he’s taken one of the coaches’ radios and he’s giving us clues from pitchside. That’s how passionate he is.

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“We would love for him to be available to us because he has a massive influence but that’s rugby. We need to be a little more clever around that.

“One of the frustrations for us in the first two games has been how long we’ve taken to adapt to the interpretations. We have been giving away too many silly penalties and feeding the opposition free entries to our 22 and letting them off the hook.”

caolin-blade-with-paul-de-wet Caolin Blade will fly home to Ireland early. Source: Steve Haag/INPHO

Meanwhile, Connacht have confirmed that scrum-half Caolin Blade will fly back to Ireland for a scan on his ankle injury later this week.

The 28-year-old suffered the injury during the defeat to the Stormers and has been ruled out of the Emerging Ireland tour of South Africa as a result. His place in the Irish squad has been taken by Leinster academy scrum-half Ben Murphy.

It remains to be seen how long Blade is sidelined for but his injury is a worrying one.

Scrum-half Colm Reilly was one of five players to link up with the Connacht squad for the second week of their South Africa trip, with captain Jack Carty, back row Conor Oliver, lock Gavin Thornbury, and hooker Eoin de Buitléar also joining the group ahead of the Bulls game.

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