Old Glory DC will have Fijian Apisai Naikatini for the 2021 Major League Rugby season, his second since signing a two-year contract ahead of the 2020 season. The 35-year-old lock (36 in April) is 6’5″and 260 lbs.
Api started three matches and played 170 minutes during the truncated 2020 inaugural Old Glory DC season. During 2019, he played for the Seattle Seawolves. He appeared in 16 of the team’s 18 matches, including the 2019 MLR Championship. He played for 821 minutes, has 121 ball carries while carrying for 544 meters. He scored 1 try and had 14 lineout takes.
Api was born in Nadi, Fiji, and attended Marist Brothers High School and Natabua High School. While in New Zealand he also attended Wanganui City College.
He played club rugby for Northern United RFC in Wellington beginning in 2006 and provincial rugby with Wellington from 2006-2013, making 39 appearances. He played in the 2007 Air New Zealand Cup, helping the team advance to the final. They would also return to the final in 2008 and 2009.
In 2007 Api provided the Argentina 7s team with injury cover at the Wellington 7s. He played in the last match, but was not capped, allowing him to later play with the Fiji 15s team in 2012.
Api also played for the Super Rugby Hurricanes in 2009, coming in as a replacement against the Cheetahs. He also played for the Hurricanes B side in the 2011 Pacific Rugby Cup. During Wellington’s off-season, Api played in the Top League for the Toyota Verblitz from 2011-13.
Api made his international debut for Fiji in the 2012 IRB Pacific Nations Cup at lock and scored his first try the following year with the team winning the 2013 PNC. He would make 18 appearances with the National team between 2012-2015. He also named to the extended squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but ultimately had non-traveling reserve status.
In 2013 he returned to Wellington and helped the team win the ITM Cup. In December 2013 he signed with Top 14 Brive for the remainder of the 2013-2014 season and then switched to Agen for 2014-2015. Then it was onto Abuenas in the French Fédérale 1 before returning to New Zealand to play club rugby with Johnsonville.
In 2019 Api applied his athletic skills for the Seattle Seawolves. He was an aerial threat on kickoffs and in lineouts. Since winning the Major League Rugby Championship in 2019. Since then, Naikatini spent the summer playing the second row with Waikato Rugby Union in New Zealand before signing with Old Glory DC. for the 2020 season.
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Naikatini had joined Old Glory’s internal player-led leadership group, guiding the team’s lineout and attack strategy. “He’ll be a leader for us again this coming season. His quiet, intelligent persona is important to our group, and hopefully, he’ll play a major part in driving us forward in 2021,” said Coach Douglas.
“I feel blessed to be a part of this amazing team again and also to represent the DMV area, an area that has a proud history of rugby here in America,” said Naikatini.
Api has spent quarantine with his wife and children in the DMV area. “While I have not picked up any new skills on the field yet while in quarantine, I have picked up some baking skills instead – I’ve learned a couple of recipes including Fijian style custard pies that my kids thoroughly enjoy.”