Savea ready for big league

    2013-04-04 21:18
    Ardie Savea playing here for the All Black Sevens side (AFP)

    Wellington - Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea once played a leading role in a school production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat" but he is expected to make a bigger splash with his debut on the Super Rugby stage on Saturday.

    The 19-year-old was named on Thursday to make his first appearance for the Hurricanes in their match against the Waratahs. Many pundits expect him to follow elder brother Julian into the national side.

    The openside flanker had to sit out the Hurricanes' first four games due to a suspension for a dangerous tackle in a pre-season match and instead he has understudied three times in the Hurricanes' development side.

    Coach Mark Hammett, who chose to bring Savea through slowly, called the dynamic teenager into the side for their match against the Waratahs in a mouth-watering clash against Wallaby flanker Michael Hooper.

    "Pretty excited. Very excited," the quietly-spoken Savea told reporters on Thursday about his feelings of his debut on Saturday at Wellington Regional Stadium.

    "From week one I wasn't planning to start, to get the four weeks (suspension) obviously it was frustrating but for me it was quite (good).

    "It gave me an opportunity to learn and to watch things."

    In 2012, Savea, in his first year out of school, played for the All Blacks Sevens side and then was the breakout player for Wellington in New Zealand's provincial championship, scoring a sensational individual try against North Harbour.

    He played inside centre at high school, but in the loose forwards for representative teams, and has been mentored by openside flankers Karl Lowe and Jack Lam, knowing the step from provincial to Super Rugby would be massive.

    Blessed with blistering pace and outstanding athleticism, Savea has already drawn comparisons with All Black great Michael Jones.

    More importantly for the Hurricanes coaching staff, however, was his willingness to do his core job - contest for the ball, clear out at the breakdown and make tackles.

    "I don't want to change him. He is a young guy learning the game and learning his trade, I don't want to put any shackles on him," Hammett told reporters.

    "He has got all the skill and speed. He doesn't really know how to take a backward step, which is good, so I'm pleased and excited that he is going to get his first start in a Hurricanes jersey."

    Savea was earmarked for higher honours at an early age at Oriental Rongotai, the small club that serves Wellington's eastern suburbs of Kilbirnie, Miramar, Maupuia and Strathmore.

    "He was a standout in whatever grade he played," Oriental Rongotai Academy director Dave Meaclem, who has known both Savea brothers "since they were born", told Reuters.

    "When you watch a lot of rugby you know which kids are standout and both of those kids, both Julian and Ardie were outstanding."

    Ardie, who still lives at home with his parents in the area, was head prefect at Rongotai College in Kilbirnie where he captained the first XV, played volleyball and was once clocked at 11.4 for the 100m.

    Meaclem said Savea's work ethic had been "marvellous" from an early age.

    Realising in his final two years of high school that he needed to improve his speed, he spent a year training to ensure he had that little bit extra pace to bring to his rugby.

    "Look at the kid and how explosive he is," Meaclem said. "Two strides and he is full pace. You can't beat that. Bang bang and he's gone." 

    Kick-off is at 08:35 (SA time) on Saturday.



    15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (captain), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara , 8 Victor Vito / Faifili Levave, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Ben May, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Ben Franks

    Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon / Reggie Goodes, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen / Reggie Goodes, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Faifili Levave / Jack Lam, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 Reynold Lee-Lo


    15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Pat McCutcheon, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Benn Robinson

    Substitutes: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Mitchell Chapman, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Ben Volavola, 22 Tom Kingston

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