Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Naholo's leg break stunning bad luck

Waisake Naholo will miss a large chunk of the Super Rugby season. Photo /Getty
Waisake Naholo will miss a large chunk of the Super Rugby season. Photo /Getty

Of all the things Waisake Naholo needed, another broken leg and a six-to-eight week lay-off, would have been at the bottom of the list.

But bad luck is the shadow from which Naholo can't escape; the 24-year-old won't be seen again until late April after it emerged he has fractured the same leg he broke last year on debut against Argentina. It's a stunning piece of bad luck -- to fracture the same leg, in a different place almost eight months after the initial injury.

It's almost unfathomable that on both occasions the injury didn't appear to be caused by any obvious, high-impact collision or incident. When he broke his leg last year, he played on for another 25 minutes and was weight bearing after the game at the All Black team hotel.

His latest break, which is not as severe as the original, occurred late in the game against the Blues when he was escaping down the touchline only to be caught in an excellent covering tackle by Rene Ranger.

Naholo stayed down before limping off. For all the Highlanders bravery, resourcefulness and structured rugby last year, the contribution of Naholo was crucial.

He was the wild card -- the point of difference to which the opposition had no reply.

Naholo scored tries no one else could have and his ability to convert quarter chances changed the flow and momentum of several games. There were times when the Highlanders were just hanging in there and Naholo would strike, instilling belief and confidence.

Listen: Highlanders assistant coach Scott McLeod on losing Naholo and Tanaka

The Highlanders remain a force without him, but they won't carry the same threat nor have the same ability to tip the balance of those close games.

The All Blacks selectors will be disappointed by Naholo's situation, but not distraught.

There is ample time for Naholo to recover and play enough rugby to merit inclusion in the All Blacks squad to play three tests against Wales.

If all goes to plan, he should be back by mid to late April, which would leaving him five games to prove his form and fitness. He scored a classy try with his first touch in his first game back after last year's break and is the sort of athlete who recovers game speed quickly.

- NZ Herald

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