Halaholo joins the 100-Club after fighting to save his career
Just a couple of months ago, there seemed next to no chance of Willis Halaholo becoming a Cardiff Rugby centurion.
It looked as though his seven-year stay at the Arms Park was over, with no new contract having been put in place, leaving him stranded on 97 appearances.
To compound the situation, he had suffered a serious Achilles injury in March, just a couple of days before he was due to make his return after five months out with hamstring damage.
It left the Welsh international centre and his young family facing an uncertain future and he has admitted it was a very tough time.
But now is back at Cardiff Rugby on a fresh deal and will join the 100-club when he lines up at home to the Vodacom Bulls in Friday night’s BKT URC clash.
Cardiff Rugby coach Matt Sherratt is delighted for the ten-times capped centre.
“Obviously, it means a lot to us as a club every time someone reaches one of those milestones,” he said.
“I can remember in my first year as a coach here, Willis turned up and I didn’t really know what to expect.
“Well, if you look at some of the big moments and big wins over the last six or seven years, he has been there.
“He has been a brilliant player for the club and a brilliant person for the club as well. He’s very well liked.”
While he was no longer on the books at the Arms Park over the summer, he was able to do his rehab with the region and, once recovered, he was handed the chance to dip his toe back in the water in a pre-season friendly against the Ospreys, going on to have further game-time for Cardiff RFC in the Welsh Premiership.
That was then followed by a new short-term regional deal and outings in the first two BKT URC fixtures, taking the 33-year-old up to 99 appearances.
“He has shown a lot of character,” said Sherratt.
“When he appeared against the Ospreys, he hadn’t played for 360 days.
“Obviously as well, he’s got a young family, he’s got five daughters. He lives locally and has really bought in to the Cardiff way of life and Cardiff Rugby as a club.
“So it’s a bit of an emotional one. It’s great to see him back on the field, playing with his mates and getting to 100 games.
“He has shown a huge amount of resilience and fought for his career.
“With the type of player he is, there’s more to come as well.
“He’s been solid so far, but I know when he’s got his fitness and his legs back and he’s back up to the speed of the game, we will soon see the best of him out there, beating people and getting people off their seats in the Arms Park.”
As for just what a special side-stepping talent Halaholo possesses, Sherratt says: “I haven’t coached anyone with better footwork in close quarters.
“I always think back to a try he scored away to the Cheetahs five years ago.
“I spent about two hours looking at it and I’ve still got no idea how he did it! I think he changed direction in the air. I’m not sure he knows how he does it either.
“I think his point of difference is he can change direction multiple times. A lot of people have got one good step. He seems to have three movements in a real short space. I’ve not seen many like that.”
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