Wellington - The much-hyped Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea has been
thrust into the All Blacks limelight with confirmation on Sunday that
injured Sam Cane will be out of action for at least a month.
in a country renowned for producing world-class number sevens, notably
the recently retired Richie McCaw, Savea has been regarded as someone
exceptional ever since he made his provincial debut four years ago as an
He was singled out by New Zealand coach Steve
Hansen as a special project the following year when he selected Savea as
an "apprentice" to sample the All Blacks atmosphere on their 2013
northern hemisphere tour.
The younger brother of blockbusting wing
Julian Savea eventually sampled Test rugby with bit parts off the bench
in five internationals this year.
Now he has been elevated to be
lead contender as openside flanker for the Rugby Championship clash
with South Africa next weekend, with Cane sidelined for four to six
weeks by the hamstring injury he suffered in Saturday's 57-22 victory
over Argentina in Hamilton.
While Savea is rapidly gaining cult
status in New Zealand with his immense pace and power, Hansen, however,
is keen to downplay expectations.
"It's a big step up from Super
Rugby to the more physical demands of international rugby," Hansen said
after also calling Crusaders flank Matt Todd into his
"Everyone is happy with the progress but we know there's things he can still do better.
the pace of the game. He's a really explosive athlete so is he ready to
play 80 minutes? We're not sure yet at that level but we'll get a good
60 out of him and we know Matty can play for as long as we need him."
All Blacks could claim the Rugby Championship crown with two games to
spare if they register a bonus-point win over South Africa, with Hansen
tipping Australia to finish second on the ladder.
snapped a six-game losing streak with a 23-17 win over the Springboks on
Saturday and Hansen expected them to beat Argentina next weekend.
about who is going to bounce back the best and you'd suggest Australia
are in a better position because they come off a win and they'll be
feeling good about themselves after struggling," he said.
"will maybe go into their shells a wee bit but it'll be a good contest
because if they both turn up they've got contrasting styles".