Kainga hoping for Canes spot
Mike Kainga is rugby's travellin' man.
The 23-year-old prop is training hard with the Hurricanes squad in case he is called on for Saturday's critical Super Rugby clash with the Crusaders at Westpac Stadium.
Kainga certainly gets about.
He was born in Hawke's Bay and his family moved to the Hutt Valley when he was 6. He completed his schooling there and he and fellow Hurricane Brad Shields were stars of the Taita College first XV.
After a frustrating spell trying to crack the Wellington rep rugby scene, he was grabbed by Bay of Plenty and has been playing his national championship rugby there since 2012.
The Chiefs signed him for their Super Rugby squad in 2013, and this year he was in the Crusaders training group.
Then an injury to John Schwalger left Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett short of props, so he pulled Kainga into his squad in April.
"It has been a few teams when you think about it," Kainga said this week.
"But I'm very happy to be with the Hurricanes.
"I know some of the boys and feel at home. It's the most enjoyable rugby team I've been in. I was very nervous for a start, but there is a real family feel in the squad."
Kainga is yet to get on the park for the Hurricanes.
"I was close against the Chiefs last month, but didn't quite get on. It's a goal to get some game time, and I'm making sure I'm really well prepared in case.
"I'm focused on my key jobs - scrummaging and the cleanout."
He said all his rep teams had a different feel.
"Bay of Plenty is incredibly relaxed, a lot of fun. There's a real beach set up there.
"At the Chiefs, I was lucky to get great coaching from Wayne Smith and Dave Rennie. And at the Crusaders there is a really good set-up.
"It was extra helpful to me, because I could learn from top props like Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks, but really the Crusaders have got every base covered, from fullback to prop."
Kainga said the turning point in his rugby career was in 2011, when he was part of the crack New Zealand team that won the under-20 World Cup in Italy.
"About 10 of them have become All Blacks already. Winning the World Cup was such a great feeling, I decided I wanted more of that. It has helped me dedicate myself to rugby."
He said the biggest influences in his career were his partner Lichelle ("She keeps me on track in lots of ways, like nutrition and training") and Shields.
"Brad and I have been together in so many teams, from junior reps, to first XV, to the under-20s and now in the Hurricanes. It's great having a mate like that around."
- Hurricanes v Crusaders, Westpac Stadium, Saturday, June 28, 7.35pm.