If the Southland rugby team had been picked exclusively on form from the sharp end of the Galbraith Shield season, Willis Halaholo's name might not have been included.
New to the province, the transplanted Aucklander was solid, but not spectacular, for Woodlands on its way to back-to-back Southland premier club titles.
He began the representative season as a bench option with Bryan Milne partnering Cardiff Vaega in the Stags midfield, but ever since he made his starting debut in the win over Waikato in round four, he's been making up for lost time.
"I think combinations are just starting to come right with Southland. During the Galbraith Shield I only came in during the last few weeks and I was still pretty shy. I'm starting to come out of my shell and show what I've got to offer," Halaholo said.
It was Halaholo's bumping run late in the second half, and the offload to tryscorer Tim Boys, which allowed Southland to get back on level terms with North Harbour, with enough time for Marty McKenzie to score the late drop goal which won the game.
"I was just taking my opportunity and doing my bit for the team. I'm pretty new to Southland rugby and I want to put my hand up and show that I'm committing 100 per cent."
Halaholo and Vaega are developing well as a midfield combination, having previously played against each other during their school and club days in Auckland.
"We are good mates from way back, from high school rugby in Auckland. It's good to work with him," Halaholo said.
"The combination is starting to mould, but we've still got a lot to work on. It's hard to put that combination together at this level."
- The Southland Times