World rugby has another flying Fijian to keep its eyes on after a stellar Super Rugby Pacific return from Kini Naholo.
Kini is the younger brother of Highlanders cult hero Waisake Naholo, who played for the All Blacks between 2015 and 2018.
Kini’s return to Super Rugby Pacific has been a long time coming after he blew out his ACL in 2020 playing for the Chiefs.
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In 2022, he played just one game for the Crusaders, but again was struck down by injury.
Nearly 1000 days on from the ACL tear, the 23-year-old wandered out onto Wellington’s iconic Cake Tin for the team he was facing all those years ago.
His comeback couldn’t have gone much better, scoring two tries for the Hurricanes in a dominant 34-17 win over the Waratahs.
“Pretty stoked with the win,” said Naholo.
“I think the boys came out tonight firing and I’m pretty stoked with my first game.
“It means a lot for me and the team as well,” he said of his return.
Fast hands gift Hurricanes debutant first try
“The boys did a pretty good job out there and set me up. I think I’m pretty stoked with the tries. As I said, it’s teamwork.
“The boys are not so much pushing each other (for spots in the team) but are helping each other out on the field.
“It doesn’t matter who’s playing or not. We’re just out there trying to help each other be better for the team.”
Naholo drew praise from All Blacks star and Super Rugby Pacific winner TJ Perenara, who said the young gun has been a force at training.
“He’s been playing really well today,” said Perenara.
“Even in our training environment, the stuff that he can do with the ball and the impact that he has on our training, it’s been special to see.
“So to see him put it into practice today, we’re all excited by this kid.”
While Waisake has represented New Zealand, Kini mightn’t follow in the footsteps of his brother if the opportunity arises.
Born in Sigatoka, Naholo is said to be a proud Fijian.
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