For­wards pay trib­ute to Wai-sake Na-holo

Fiji Sun - - Sport - Feed­back: stella.more­sio@fi­jisun.com.fj

New Ply­mouth: Near the end of ev­ery Taranaki rugby train­ing the for­wards and backs break up, form a hud­dle and come up with a hu­mor­ous chant. At the far end of the No 2 ground at Yarrow Sta­dium it started like a deep, pitch-less cho­rus. Waisake Na-holo, Waisake Na-holo. It got louder and louder. It might not have been orig­i­nal, given ‘The Zoo’ blast it out at ev­ery High­landers home match, but it summed up how the Taranaki play­ers feel about hav­ing the All Blacks flyer back for Sun­day’s Mitre 10 Cup semi­fi­nal against Tas­man. The man him­self just smiled, the grin al­most as big as his calf mus­cles that ap­pear to have grown sub­stan­tially since he last played for Taranaki. That was back in 2014 when Taranaki beat Tas­man to win the ITM Cup. Omen?

“It’s been a while,” he said post-train­ing. “A lot has hap­pened since then.” It has. Na­holo, 25, made all posts a win­ner when he was drafted into the High­landers last sea­son, his form earn­ing him se­lec­tion in the All Blacks be­fore he frac­tured his leg, throw­ing him into a race to heal in time for the Rugby World Cup. He made it, al­though his im­pact was min­i­mal af­ter it be­came clear he wasn’t quite right. This sea­son has mir­rored the last as he has got him­self into peak con­di­tion only for in­jury to im­pact in­stead of side-step him. Not that he’s com­plain­ing. Life, he says, was about a seven or eight out of 10 at the mo­ment.

“It’s not per­fect but it’s good. With rugby there is still a lot to work on but out­side of rugby ev­ery­thing is all good.” A shoe-in to make the All Blacks end-of-year tour squad when it’s an­nounced on Sun­day, Na­holo wants to do ev­ery­thing he can to help Taranaki make it to their sec­ond fi­nal in three years. In fact, he would have played last week but his re­quest to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was met with a neg­a­tive as he was told to rest up fol­low­ing some long haul flights from Ar­gentina to South Africa be­fore he re­turned to New Zealand. “I just en­joy play­ing rugby and Taranaki is home to me. I come back when I’m not play­ing and I’m re­ally itch­ing to play, I’m al­ways keen to pull on the am­ber and black. “When the All Black coaches said I could come back and play I was a bit ner­vous, as well. Even when I was com­ing down I was think­ing about play­ing and train­ing. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to.” Post the semi­fi­nal, Na­holo wants to end the sea­son on the right note. “I just want as much game time as I can get.” - Stuff

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