Fresh from the World Cup of Darts in Germany, Haupai Puha (Ngāti Porou) is echoing the views of his Ngāpuhi teammate Cody Harris that New Zealand could become World Cup winners.
Puha and Harris became the first New Zealand team to reach the quarter-final stages of the World Cup. With the talent on the local darts scene in New Zealand on the improve, the pair say it's a matter of belief, rather than talent, that will make the difference.
"There are a dozen players in New Zealand that could have been filling our shoes. The talent here on the floor stages, we average over a hundred most days. If somehow we could transfer that to the TV events, I think, yeah, we could have a team that could compete and, possibly, win definitely," Puha told Te Ao Māori News.
Harris, who was competing in his fourth successive World Cup of Darts, said after their quarter-final loss to Japan, "We all play really good on the floor, like these top pros. It's just having to do it at the right time up on stage and taking the opportunities. If we do, I really think New Zealand is good enough to be World Cup of Darts champions."
The two reached the quarter-final after beating Lithuania and South Africa, before succumbing to Japan. Puha says, "We were pretty lucky with the draw, I think more so. But yeah, we made history, it probably still hasn't sunk in yet."
Despite missing ten opportunities to close out the South African match, Puha says he felt confident the whole time on the stage, before finally nailing "tops" (double twenty) to win the doubles tie-breaker.
"Even when I was missing, I was still comfortable that I was going to hit it every time. It was almost a shock that it wasn't going in," he says, "we played good against South Africa. I think if we had of played like that against Japan, I think we probably would have won."
Puha and Harris, as well as two other local darts players, will get another chance to compete against the world's best darts players when the Darts Masters returns to NZ, moving to Hamilton for the first time.
Puha lost to Australian Kyle "The Original" Anderson last year in Auckland, but he says there is no reason why more Kiwis can't emulate Mark McGrath, who is the only New Zealander to have advanced past the first round of the Darts Masters.
"Even though there's not as many spots for the locals this year, because they've added a couple of extra pros on our side, but we're definitely confident if we play our "A" game that we can compete if not, win," says Puha.
Puha will also compete in upcoming tournaments in the coming weeks hoping to seek qualification for the other two Oceania darts masters tournaments in Melbourne and Brisbane.