Darts: Improving Huapai Puha aims big in World Series of Darts trifecta

Haupai Puha in action during the World Cup of Darts in Germany.
Haupai Puha in action during the World Cup of Darts in Germany. Photo credit: PDC

Kiwi darts star Haupai Puha is aiming to apply his lessons from the last 12 months to the big stage for the upcoming Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) World Series of Darts events across Australia and New Zealand.

'Hopes' is the only New Zealand thrower competing in all three events, starting in Brisbane on Friday night, before moving to Melbourne and finishing up in Hamilton on August 23-24.

The 34-year-old will face retiring five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in Brisbane, while his opponents for Melbourne and Hamilton will be drawn closer to the events.

Regardless what sport you play, facing one of the biggest names in the game is always a daunting prospect, but Puha's form over the last 12 months - highlighted by his performance at the 2018 Auckland Darts Masters - has some given him an injection of confidence.

Since his televised debut last August, his career has gone from strength to strength, dominating the New Zealand and Australian domestic circuits. That form earned him the opportunity to don the Silver Fern at June's World Cup of Darts in Germany, where Puha and Cody Harris reached the quarter-finals.

Puha hopes to cause a few upsets during the world series and feels confident anybody can beat anyone on the day.

"My game is a lot stronger [compared to 12 months ago]," Puha told Newshub, before flying out to Brisbane. "I've learnt lots from the televised events, where I studied my speed, action and put it into practice.

"I do think the talent is very strong this year and everyone is very capable of causing an upset.

"If I win a game or two, then I guess my hard work is paying off. I think I can, so it won't be a surprise if I do."

Reflecting on representing New Zealand at the World Cup, Puha said he was disappointed with his play in Germany, despite playing a key role in helping NZ to the final eight - the country's best finish in the annual pairs tournament.

But overall, he is pleased with the experience of competing on such a stage and aims to apply the lessons he learned on the world series.

"It was a dream come true to represent my family and country at the World Cup.

"I don't feel I played that well at the World Cup, but I learned lots and put that into my practice.

"I've worked very hard of late, so I guess it is important to see where my game is, and if I can build and learn, and be better each time."

Puha admitted to feeling nervous excitement as the events draw closer.

"I wouldn't be human if I said I don't get nervous, but I do enjoy the feeling of it, love the pressure moments.

"I feel great about how my game is at the moment - I'm ready for the test over the next few weeks.

"I have set a goal for Brisbane and will also for the other events, after I see where my game is after this weekend."

Canterbury youngster Ben Robb is also competing in Brisbane, where he has drawn three-time world champion and current world No.1 Michael van Gerwen.

At a glance: 2019 Brisbane Darts Masters draw

Raymond van Barneveld v Haupai Puha

Daryl Gurney v Koha Kokiri

James Wade v Damon Heta

Simon Whitlock v Brendon McCausland

Rob Cross v James Bailey

Michael van Gerwen v Ben Robb

Gary Anderson v Corey Cadby

Peter Wright v Kyle Anderson


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