Five players to watch: Taranaki

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Thursday, August 9, 2018    Getty Images

Kiniviliame Naholo 
Having demonstrated his speed in the two Ranfurly Shield defences against Heartland sides, in which he scored three tries, Naholo, 19, showed he could be just as fast as his All Blacks brother Waisake. A New Zealand Schoolboys representative last year, he scored 40 tries for the champion Hastings Boys' High School side, and looks set for a big future in New Zealand.

Seta Tamanivalu
Twice a Super Rugby championship winner with the Crusaders, Tamanivalu, 26, had an outstanding campaign in 2018, on the back of a fine season for Taranaki last year in which he scored five tries. Now a veteran in the side, he has a big leadership role to play in bringing out the potential threats in the side. If played at centre his liaison with Tei Walden could be a danger for most opponents. 

Angus Ta'avao 
Leading the Taranaki side should cap a great season already for Ta'avao, 28, now a seasoned front row campaigner. He may have felt at the start of the season that he had missed the boat in Investec Super Rugby, but injuries to others provided an opening and he demonstrated the quality of his craft work to secure the tighthead role for the Chiefs and set himself up for another big season for Taranaki.

Jarrad Hoeata 
Back in Taranaki where he played 68 games between 2006-14, Hoeata, 34, has a wealth of experience to offer the side, and especially the front five. The three-Test All Black and 10-time Maori All Black had 53 games for the Highlanders between 2011-14 while playing 62 games for the Cardiff Blues, and then 10 games for North Harbour when coming back to New Zealand in 2017.  

Stephen Perofeta 
Coming through a difficult time with the Blues where he rarely played with the benefit of a pack giving him the time, space and quality ball a first five-eighths needs, Perofeta, 21, will have a big role to play in Taranaki's game plans this year. Leading the side around the field, kicking for tactical effect and for goal-scoring advantage will all be parts of his game he looks to grow.