The Rugby Championship might have taken the majority of August's rugby headlines, but the 2014 ITM Cup has taken centre stage in New Zealand, with Willis Halaholo so far taking a starring role.
His recent form has been a product of rejection. Halaholo was benched for the competition opener against Bay of Plenty but surged back into Southland's starting XV for rounds two and three, and the province benefited greatly from his return.
While there may have been more consistent candidates out there in August, the 24-year-old has operated on a model of efficiency, packing dazzling displays into the minutes he has been afforded in New Zealand's provincial tournament.
A 25-21 away win over North Harbour was largely inspired by Halaholo's rounded assault from midfield, using a combination of his boisterous 104-kilogram frame and some more elegant touches to prod his side past the opposition.
A round-three defeat to Championship leaders Otago didn't produce the intended result, but again Halaholo was on the scoresheet, touching down for a long-range intercept try and setting up another for Mark Jackman.
These performances have led to notions that the midfield asset should be on the radar of Super Rugby's franchises, with the Sydney Morning Herald's Paul Cully suggesting that if New Zealand's sides aren't in the hunt, Australia's should be:
Speaking on coach Brad Mooar's decision to drop him early on in the campaign, per Logan Savory of Stuff.co.nz, it's clear what mental fortitude Halaholo possesses, as he was happy to take his mentor's call on the chin and move forward:
"He wanted to start Jacko [Jackman] in the midfield for tactical reasons. I respect his decision, but I took it really hard to be honest. I wasn't really comfortable with it but I needed to get over it and do what I needed for the team."
Halaholo did come on during the win over Bay of Plenty in mid-August and inspired even in a cameo capacity. His finest contribution came after spearheading the heart of the opponents' defence, steamrolling Teddy Stanaway into an unconscious state and creating the opening for Cardiff Vaega by chipping Junior Ngaluafe.
Evidently, the Southland upstart is willing to work for his opportunities, and the best thing about him is that he appears eager to repay any faith shown in him when on the field.
In the two-and-a-half games played in August, Halaholo beat 18 defenders and it would be a surprise if the likes of Auckland weren't perking their ears up regarding the prospect of a 2015 Super Rugby introduction.
There's still time for his journey to unravel at the seams, of course, but for now the central playmaker is enjoying a fast rise through the domestic ranks, with bigger things to follow.
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