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‘Business First, Kava Later’

The kava ceremony will have to wait until after two of Super Rugby’s most electric wingers face off in the Waratahs’ semifinal clash with the Highlanders in Sydney today.. Fijian
27 Jun 2015 09:00
‘Business First, Kava Later’
Highlanders Fijian pair Patrick Osborne (left), and Waisake Naholo

The kava ceremony will have to wait until after two of Super Rugby’s most electric wingers face off in the Waratahs’ semifinal clash with the Highlanders in Sydney today..

Fijian flyers Taqele Naiyaravoro and Waisake Naholo will meet on a rugby pitch for the first time this season.

But in recognition of their common roots – both were schooled in the Fijian town of Sigatoka and played all of their rugby there as teenagers – the pair have been trading friendly barbs all season on Facebook.

Highlanders’ weapon Naholo revealed the communication did not go on lockdown this week, with Naiyaravoro suggesting a post-game kava ceremony after their teams down tools.

“He messaged me this week actually, he told me to bring more kava,” Naholo said on Thursday. “I just said we’d take care of business first and worry about kava later.”

It was a smart response from the Highlanders winger, who arrived in Sydney with his teammates on Friday, intent on upsetting the more experienced defending champions.

But it is clear the pair share a special bond as Fijians making a name for themselves away from home in top flight rugby. The uncapped Naholo, Super Rugby’s top try scorer so far this season, was included in an expanded All Blacks squad in the lead-up to next month’s Rugby Championship, and there is strong speculation Naiyaravoro will be drafted into the equivalent Wallabies line-up at the end of the Waratahs’ season.

Naholo said telling his parents he was one important step closer to wearing an All Blacks jersey was one of the proudest moments of his life.

“I’m always proud of Fijian boys playing Super Rugby – to every Fijian kid growing up there playing Super Rugby and international level is always a big dream and to be doing some of that is special,” he said.

“Growing up things were harder for us, and they [his parents] were lost for words and so was I. It makes me proud to make them proud and show them I’m tracking along all right out here in New Zealand.

“Whatever team Taqele ends up in he is going to be a big threat.”

For now though, Naholo has destruction on his mind. The former track sprinter, who was struggling for game time at the Blues when Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph recruited him last year, is part of a formidable backline including All Blacks Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa, as well as standout attacking players Patrick Osborne and Lima Sopoaga.

Unlike the Waratahs, the Highlanders’ line-up features only three test-capped players, a fact Joseph put front and centre in the construction of his side’s identity over the past two years.

“It brings that edge to us, we have good players, but we’re playing internationals in other teams. We think of ourselves as underdogs,” Naholo said. “It makes us a little bit more competitive.”

Whether his team can still lay claim to the tag following a stunning season is another question, but it’s fair to say that in the underdog stakes, the Highlanders can at least mount a stronger case than the Waratahs, who tried to do the same this week.

“The Waratahs have 13 Wallabies and a Springbok in their team … we’re just boys, we don’t have that name behind us, we’re just going to go out there and play our game.”

That may or may not involve direct contact with Facebook friend Naiyaravoro, but Naholo is prepared if they do cross paths.

“I’ll probably give him a little pat on the back and a cheeky smile and tell him not to run it back too hard,” he said.

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