Picking out a recent outstanding performer, this week we take a look at Waisake Naholo’s efforts against Australia.
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It takes some players years to crack the highest level of the game, but realistically Naholo’s rise to the top has come about in around two years.
Practically unknown ahead of the 2015 Super Rugby season, the 25-year-old from Sigatoka, Fiji, was passed over by both the Hurricanes and the Blues despite his consistency in the Mitre 10 Cup with Taranaki.
Just like Malakai Fekitoa, he went from Blues reject to a Super Rugby winner with the Highlanders last year, and a Test player too, making his debut in last year’s Rugby Championship.
His skill-set is quite something; fleet-footed, powerful, able to switch gears seamlessly. For reference, ask the Wallabies, who watched Naholo finish with over 100 metres with ball in hand to his name in Sydney.
Naholo has been used on the left wing by the Wallabies unlike with the Highlanders where he operates on the right, but reviewing Saturday’s game his match-up against Dane Haylett-Petty.
It was Naholo’s soft hands which created the overlap for the first try from Ryan Crotty.
And when he roams in the way he did in the build-up for his own score – way off his wing, close to the ruck – his timing and positioning on the support run looking for Beauden Barrett’s inside ball was off the highest order.
Best of all for Steve Hansen is the fact that for now, Naholo has to keep delivering his best week in week out to keep Julian Savea on the bench, whose form this year hasn’t hit the heights but who at his best is widely regarded as the world’s best wing.
Naholo certainly delivered on Saturday, finished as the top scorer over on SuperBru. Injury might rule him out of the reverse fixture in Wellington, but when he does return we expect more fireworks.