Rugby

Mains: Savea better than Lomu

2014-10-22 17:00
Julian Savea (Getty Images)
Cape Town - Former All Black and Golden Lions coach Laurie Mains agrees with the notion that Julian Savea is a more complete wing than Jonah Lomu was.

READ: Laurie Mains chats to Sport24

Mains, 68, was All Black coach when Lomu took the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa by storm.

The All Blacks seemed unstoppable before coming unstuck against the hosts in the final at Ellis Park.

But that World Cup made Lomu a global superstar, and while admitting he was something special, Mains agrees with current All Black coach Steve Hansen's notion that Savea is a more complete player.

In an exclusive interview with Sport24, Mains pointed to Lomu's defence as a weakness.

"Jeff Wilson, Andrew Mehrtens and Frank Bunce were a few of the more gifted players that I coached, but they didn’t have the physical prowess that Lomu possessed. Because he was so big, strong and fast, and boasted an excellent side-step, he was almost impossible to tackle one-on-one.

"To make him special, which he was, as a team we had to devise all sorts of moves that ended up with Jonah getting the ball in space. He was a player of tremendous power, but I don’t think that anybody pretended he was great on defence.

"The All Blacks have a better winger now in Julian Savea. Savea is the more complete footballer. While he possesses pace and power, he is much stronger on defence than Lomu ever was and goes looking for work. However, one of the great rugby tragedies is that when Jonah should have been hitting his peak, he was struck down with a kidney disease. Who knows how good he may have been?"

When asked about who he would be backing in this weekend's Currie Cup final between Western Province and the Golden Lions, Mains said he is firmly behind the team he coached to the title in 1999.

"Go the Lions! I wish them well for two reasons. Firstly, it’s my old province that I enjoyed success with, and secondly (coach) Johan Ackermann is a man whom I hold great respect for. I saw quite a bit of him when he was on tour with the Lions during Super Rugby and I believe he has a very bright coaching future…

"I knew heaps about the Currie Cup even before I headed over to coach in the country. The historic competition remains the heart and soul of provincial rugby in South Africa."

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