The youngest Naholo brother, Kiniviliame debuted for Taranaki in a first class match against Poverty Bay in a pre-season Shield challenge on the weekend.
The impact was terrifying for the opposition, as Naholo junior showed enormous potential in a damaging performance. The 19-year-old winger’s first try was an impressive run through multiple defenders, using footwork and power to discard defenders.
His second effort was an easy left foot step as he glided through the defence on counter-attack.
With such early promise, how soon can we expect this prodigious talent to be lining up against his older brother Waisake in Super Rugby?
Much will depend on his debut Mitre 10 season with Taranaki if they decide to hand him the starting wing position for the full season this year. Having represented the New Zealand schoolboys last year, Naholo will be in firm contention for the under-20’s next season, especially if he has a major impact for the Taranaki Bulls proving his ability at the provincial level.
He spent most of his time at Hastings Boys on the left wing where he racked up 41 tries last season, but due to positional strength moved to the right wing for the New Zealand schoolboys. That will again be a hotly contested spot for the under-20’s that could see Naholo used on the opposite side.
With wingers possessing most of their athleticism at a younger age and declining with time, there is no reason why Naholo can’t complete a meteoric rise to Super Rugby within a year. Rieko Ioane is 21-years-old and completed a Lions series whilst only 20-years-old. Naholo will be 20-years-old next year and following a Junior World Cup campaign could make a debut appearance.
A boom Mitre 10 campaign could elevate Naholo’s stock to the point where a Super Rugby team is interested in using a squad spot for him for 2019. Taranaki is a Chiefs-aligned union and that would be his first opportunity, with a chance to oust current wingers Sean Wainui, Shaun Stevenson, Solomon Alaimalo and Toni Pulu in the pecking order. That fittingly presents his best chance anyway – the Blues have investments in Caleb Clarke and Ioane, the Crusaders have George Bridge, the Highlanders have just resigned Tevita Nabura and the Hurricanes uncovered Ben Lam this year.
If not 2019, then 2020 will be highly likely in a post-World Cup environment.
Older brother Waisake Naholo has re-committed to the end of 2019 one another one-year deal, his second in a row. If he decides to stay post World Cup, there is the very real possibility he could line up opposite his younger brother, or if the Highlanders are interested in grabbing another Naholo they could play on the same team on either side.
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