Report: Ex-All Blacks wing Waisake Naholo links up with Crusaders
That’s according to Stuff, which reports that Naholo has joined his younger brother Kini at the Christchurch-based franchise in the absence of their All Blacks, who remain on extended leave.
The move will come as dour news for Highlanders fans given the cult hero status Naholo earned for himself during his five-season stay in Dunedin, during which time he became an All Black, won a Super Rugby title and beat the British and Irish Lions.
The 30-year-old is also the franchise’s all-time leading try-scorer with 45 tries in 62 matches, with his adoration among the Highlanders faithful reflected by the fact that fans still chant his name at home matches at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
However, Highlanders fans may be resigned to cheering against Naholo this coming season as the prospect of the 2015 World Cup winner suiting up for their South Island rivals becomes a possibility.
Such a move is a step towards Naholo’s publicly-stated goal of playing Super Rugby again after he returned to New Zealand last year following an injury-riddled two-year spell at Premiership club London Irish.
Despite a successful NPC return with Canterbury, Naholo wasn’t named in any 2022 Super Rugby Pacific squad in December.
Nevertheless, his reported involvement in the Crusaders set-up is a step towards achieving his goal of a Super Rugby comeback, although whether or not he takes to the field for Scott Robertson’s side during the regular season remains to be seen.
The reigning five-time Super Rugby and Super Rugby Aotearoa champions already boast Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, David Havili, George Bridge, Braydon Ennor, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Kini Naholo and Chay Fihaki as their outside back options.
That leaves Naholo with a significant logjam of fully-contracted talent to overcome if he is to play for the Crusaders, with his best chance of selection likely to come via injuries to the aforementioned players.
He may, however, feature in the franchise’s pre-season fixtures against the Highlanders and Hurricanes early next month.
The Crusaders then kick their Super Rugby Pacific season off against the Hurricanes at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch on February 19.
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