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Three flyers from Chiefs catchment area set to play for rival franchises

By Tom Vinicombe
Kini Naholo

While Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan has lamented his side’s lack of consistent finishing prowess in the outer channels in recent years, it appears that a handful of players representing NPC sides within the region have again been lost to other franchises.


The five New Zealand Super Rugby teams will announce their squads for next year’s competition on Wednesday, however a number of unpublished signings have been all but confirmed in the days ahead of the official reveal.

RugbyPass understands that three wingers who represented Chiefs provinces in this year’s NPC will turn out for other franchises next year: Taranaki’s Kini Naholo, Waikato’s Daniel Sinkinson and Bay of Plenty’s Melani Nanai.

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Naholo previously spent two seasons with the Chiefs but was sidelined for the vast majority of that time thanks to injury. Naholo, the younger brother of former All Black Waisake, spent 2022 with the Crusaders but managed just one appearance against Moana Pasifika. Next year, the 23-year-old will link up with the Hurricanes.

Joining Naholo in the capital is Sinkinson, who had a breakout season on the wing for Waikato throughout their provincial campaign. While Naholo is a power player, Sinkinson is an out-and-out speedster. The two new additions to the outside backs are effectively replacing Wes Goosen, who has relocated to Edinburgh, and Wellington’s Pepesana Patafilo – who is rumoured to be heading to the Crusaders.

The Crusaders will also have Melani Nanai on their books for 2023, with the 29-year-old returning to New Zealand this year after spending three seasons with Worcester in the Gallagher Premiership. While Nanai was signed by the Steamers for the NPC, injury prevented him from ever taking the field – continuing an unfortunate trend that’s plagued his career.

Nanai previously spent five seasons with the Blues, accumulating over 60 caps across all three outside back roles.


Clayton McMillan, who will be entering his third season with the Chiefs, has suggested in the past that the outside backs within the squad – particularly the wingers – have not been consistent enough and, as such, haven’t nailed down starting jerseys.

In 2022, it’s fair to say that things went a little bit smoother for the likes of Shaun Stevenson and Etene Nanai-Seturo – although untimely injuries did not help – while Emoni Narawa looked a useful addition and the return of Damian McKenzie to the region will certainly help the back three potency for the season ahead.

They’ll also be able to call on a new face or two in the outside backs with Taranaki’s Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepken and Counties Manukau’s Peniasi Malimali both rumoured to be linking up with the Chiefs.

Around the other franchises, youngsters Robert Rush and Caleb Tangitau are expected to join the Blues on full-time deals while experienced halfback Willi Heinz is set to replace Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi at the Crusaders. 19-year-old Waikato flyhalf Taha Kemara is also emerging as a possible acquisition for the Super Rugby Pacific champions.


The New Zealand Super Rugby squads for 2023 will be announced throughout the day on Wednesday, with the Blues team to be revealed first at 6am.


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