Willy Ambaka, aka Kenyan Lomu, battling visa issue ahead of possible deal with Manawatu Turbos
The Manawatu Turbos have their eyes on Kenyan Sevens star Willy Ambaka, but visa issues have put his move in doubt.
Ambaka is nicknamed Kenyan Lomu because the way he regularly bumps off defenders is similar the late All Blacks great Jonah Lomu .
Manawatu Rugby Union chief executive John Knowles confirmed they had been working with the agent of the 26-year-old wing to bring him to New Zealand.
"There is the possibility of him coming, but he is subject to visa and there is no visa movement at the moment," he said.
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Ambaka has already had one visa application denied.
Ambaka has been unavailable for Kenya for the recent Hong Kong and Singapore stops on the Sevens World Series.
The Kenyan Star reported the reason for his absence was because he had "landed an invite to New Zealand for a professional stint".
But rather than playing rugby in New Zealand, he has been left fighting to get a visa.
Knowles said the process of getting player visas was becoming harder for rugby unions.
"[Immigration New Zealand] have really tightened up and what I have usually put in visa applications is no longer good enough," he said.
Ambaka is not the only Manawatu player affected by the new process.
Feilding flanker Kepu Tuifua, who was on the cusp of the Turbos last season, and 2016 Manawatu academy wing Saia Teumohenga are both in the same situation in Tonga.
If Ambaka's move eventuates, he will add to an improving group of outside backs in the Turbos' mix this year.
They already have Nathan Tudreu, Newton Tudreu and Ambrose Curtis signed, while former Turbo Lewis Marshall, who is back in the district, Wanganui duo Te Rangatira Waitokia and Kameli Kuruyabaki, 2016 Turbo Luther Hirini and 2015 Turbo Hamiora Thomas are all also batting for spots in the team.
At 1.89m and 102kg, size is not an issue for Ambaka.
While he may not be a household name, Ambaka will not need any introducing to regular watchers of sevens rugby.
He has been on the world circuit since 2011 and is third on Kenya's all-time tryscorers list with 84 at an average of a try every two matches.
Ambaka leads Kenya's scoring with 18 tries on the 2016/17 World Series.
In 2013 he was a finalist for World Rugby's sevens player of the year award, won by New Zealander Tim Mikkelson, and he went to the Rio Olympics with the Kenyan sevens team in 2016.
But while his sevens resume is extensive, his 15s career has yet to fully take off.
He spent a season playing division two rugby in France 2013-14 scoring six tries in 10 games for Lyon.
He also played for Western Province in South Africa's Currie Cup before returning to the sevens circuit.