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Ruben Wiki, who will become the most capped player in world rugby league when he leads New Zealand out against Great Britain at Loftus Road on Saturday, has revealed the secret of his record-breaking success - the ?magic potion? he consumes after every match.
For the last three years, the 32-year-old Kiwi captain has been hooked on Kava, the pick-me-up used by Pacific Islanders in traditional ceremonies for 3,000 years.
Kava is a natural ingredient extracted from the root of the pepper tree, ground into powder and mixed with liquid to form a popular drink. It is said by experts to relieve anxiety and stress and, according to Kiwis, has other powers invaluable for ageing rugby players.
?It?s my magic potion,? said Wiki. ?It helps me after the games by taking away the soreness. Our doctor has done research on it and it?s got a lot of positives.
?It?s good for stress and it?s also an anti-inflammatory which is a bit of a bonus because I don?t take any. Anything that gets the body ready for the next week is good because I?m not getting any younger.?
The former Canberra Raiders forward, taking no chances on a six-week tour of Britain and France, packed the precious powder, along with traditional carved wooden bowl and coconut cups, among his luggage when the players set off from New Zealand.
?You can buy it from Fijian and Indian shops,? he said. ?I leave the digging to the experts.
?After a game we all get together, sit around and listen to music. For the last three years it has been pretty full on after every game.
?I?m really into the ceremonial bits of the Kava which is in the islands. I love the island culture. My mom is Samoan and I want to learn the island ways.?
Wiki, a logical choice to step into the breach when Stephen Kearney and Stacey Jones retired from international rugby league 12 months ago, will make history when he wins his 47th cap at the home of Queens Park Rangers.
He equalled Gary Freeman?s Kiwi record in last week?s 28-26 defeat by Australia in Auckland and on Saturday will also go past Gary Schofield and Mick Sullivan, the joint holders of the Great Britain appearance record.
Australian legend Mal Meninga is among the all-time greats to be left trailing in the wake of the highly-respected New Zealand Warrior, a quietly-spoken man off the field who is almost embarrassed by the attention his record-breaking feat has brought.
?I?m not a stat man,? said Wiki, who made his Test debut in 1994. ?They reminded me last week when I equalled the 46. It kind of snuck up on me.
?Even though I?ve had a lot of suspensions, I?ve still managed to get up there. It?s a great honour to be in that boat with all those legends.
?I just love playing for my country and playing for my team-mates. I?m really passionate about the black and white jersey. I just want to do my country proud.?
A proud Wiki led the Kiwis to their first win in Sydney for 46 years earlier this month and new coach Brian McClennan has no doubt about his value to the team.
?I couldn?t speak highly enough of Ruben,? he said. ?He is one terrific person. He leads by example and makes everybody feel good. When he walks into a room, he?s got an aura about him.
?He?s got a lot of ?Mana?, which is Maori for sense of pride. It?s amazing and the players just follow him. He?s a ?show me, don?t tell me? guy. He?s really enjoying himself.
?His work ethic and training ethic is second to none. He trains as hard as he possibly can and he?s in excellent order. I think he is in better condition than he was last year. We?re very lucky that we have Ruben leading us onto the field.?
Great Britain forward Adrian Morley, who has faced the might of the tough-tackling Kiwi over the last five seasons in the National Rugby League, is another man full of admiration.
?I?ve played against Ruben for a number of years at international and club level and, if anyone deserves the record, it?s him,? said Morley.
?He?s been tireless for the Kiwis, a real soldier. He?s probably past his prime in respect of his physical attributes but his leadership qualities and determination are what the Kiwis look for. He?s vital for them.?
Wiki could reach the magical 50-cap mark next month if he plays against France and leads the Kiwis to the Tri-Nations final and, with the aid of his magic potion, he is poised to set a new record that could stand for ever.
?I?ll take it day by day,? he said, ?concentrate on this week. It?s a game at a time for me. The Tri-Nations is in Australia and New Zealand next year isn?t it? Hopefully I?ll be playing well enough to get another start.?
Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this article.