Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Recruiting can be a hit or miss affair

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Waisake Naholo of the Highlanders is tackled during the Super Rugby Qualifying Final match. Photo / Getty Images
Waisake Naholo of the Highlanders is tackled during the Super Rugby Qualifying Final match. Photo / Getty Images

Recruiting is a tough part of rugby but such a crucial component.

The Chiefs and Highlanders are sprinkled with success stories among their playing rosters as they prepare for what should be highlight viewing tonight in Hamilton. They've had a few flops but more ticks than most teams.

Damian Mckenzie, Charlie Ngatai, Michael Leitch, Taleni Seu, Brodie Retallick, Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Smith, Alex Ainley and Josh Hohneck are some of the current talent plucked from elsewhere.

Tighthead prop Hiroshi Yamashita also answered a crisis call from Japan when serious injuries to Nepo Laulala and Pauliasi Manu left the Chiefs exposed at tighthead prop.

That alliance is working.

It's not been so profitable across the Tasman where Ayumu Goromaru did not even make the Reds squad for the Crusaders game last night.

Goromaru was the star fullback for Japan in their memorable World Cup campaign where his all-round game on attack and defence mixed with his impressive goalkicking made him one of the standouts in the squad.

However, like many who wore the national colours at that tournament, Goromaru chose not to be part of the new Sunwolves side in Super Rugby and signed instead for the Reds.

Fans in Queensland liked the idea and the franchise added sponsors and boosted memberships and sales on the back of Goromaru's signature.

The fullback's rationale for his switch was not explained well while language remains one of the 30-year-old's struggles to adapt to his new environment. His form went the way of coach Richard Graham who instigated the deal.

In an ineffective side, Goromaru has vanished. Former league player Karmichael Hunt took up permanent duties at fullback while Goromaru had bit parts in the Reds' programme before being ditched from the bench by a rookie on the trip to New Zealand.

He's not the only offshore recruit to struggle this season. Matt Duffie is still coming to terms with rugby at the Blues after switching from league and Ben Volavola's progress at the Crusaders has been erratic after moving from the Waratahs.

Recruiting offshore talent can be one of the great skills in Super Rugby. Some fitted into the Goromaru category but Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Fumiaka Tanaka, James Haskell, Matt Symons, Sonny Bill Williams and Nemani Nadolo all splashed stacks of skill on to the competition canvas.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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