Vito the one to watch out for, says Kiwi coach
Victor Vito is big, he is powerful, and he is quick - both in pace and mind. New Zealand's new sevens sensation showed it yesterday as he nimbly sidestepped comparisons to the legendary Jonah Lomu.
'There will never be another Jonah Lomu. He was amazing. He is him, I just want to be Victor Vito,' says the Wellington flanker who will be playing on the wing this weekend as New Zealand aim to wrap up the race for the IRB Sevens title by winning the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens.
But New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens suggested that the powerful winger could well be the next big thing - possibly the next Lomu - to wear the All Black strip.
'All those who saw him score a try against Samoa at the Wellington Sevens couldn't help but liken him to Lomu,' said Tietjens. 'He certainly has got the x-factor and he is a gifted player who has added another dimension for us on the wing.'
Vito has been the find of the season for the undefeated New Zealanders, having played in all four previous legs, scoring 20 tries and playing a prominent role in the record winning-streak of 36 matches.
'Is it 20 tries? I really don't keep a count as what matters for me is scoring the next one. But what I know is that I don't know what it feels like to lose and I hope it stays that way this week,' said Vito after a strenuous training run at So Kon Po yesterday.
At 1.92m and 109kg, Vito is four centimetres shorter and about 10kg lighter than Lomu when he made his debut at the Hong Kong Sevens back in 1994.
But he has all the same instincts as the famous All Black winger.
Last month at the Wellington Sevens, Vito became an instant hero when he scored two memorable tries, including the match-winner, which helped New Zealand beat Samoa 22-17 in the final.
But it was Vito's first try which had Lomu written all over it for Tietjens. The 20-year-old left Mikaele Pesamino - the hat-trick hero in last year's Hong Kong Sevens Cup-winning team - for dead with a 60-metre burst and then ran straight over Samoan captain Uale Mai to score.
'It was reminiscent of Lomu,' says Tietjens, who started Vito as a forward in the first tournament in Dubai, but then realised there was more value using him out wide as he used Lomu when New Zealand won a hat-trick in Hong Kong from 1994 to 1996.
'He has pace and power and I've just seen him grow since his first appearance in Dubai. At the moment he is a loose forward in 15s, but enjoys playing on the wing in sevens. He is one to watch out for this weekend,' said Tietjens.
Enjoy while you can for Vito is most likely to be snapped up next season for Super 14 rugby.
Of Samoan descent, Vito was born in Wellington. He has represented New Zealand at most age groups as a No.8. In 2006, he was drafted into the sevens squad by Tietjens but never made an appearance as he was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
'Of course my aim is to play for the All Blacks, and although there is quite a lot of depth in the back-row at the moment, I would dearly love to play as a No.8 or six. But right now, the target is to win the Hong Kong Sevens,' said Vito.