Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Savea's talent demands a chance

Julian Savea's goosestep, power, speed and balance had "pick me" written all over him in the weekend. Photo / Getty Images
Julian Savea's goosestep, power, speed and balance had "pick me" written all over him in the weekend. Photo / Getty Images

One brutal thrilling burst. If, before the weekend, the All Black selectors needed more evidence that Julian Savea is ready to don the black jersey, they got it in the decisive moment of the Hurricanes match against the Highlanders.

This is a winger on top of his game, he is switched on, he has turned around an average opening season and become, with Andre Taylor and Cory Jane, part of a very potent Hurricanes back three.

While the Highlanders sat hard on Taylor and Jane to limit their opportunities on Saturday, Savea broke loose and claimed the game for the Hurricanes.

He wears 11 on his jersey and usually plays down the left flank but on Saturday, his breakout moment came when he swapped to the other flank and created mayhem. Savea's goosestep, power, speed and balance had "pick me" written all over them as he fended away Chris King, swerved outside Mike Delany and beat the cover to the line.

It was a hint of the "rhinoceros in ballet shoes" routine which Jonah Lomu used to beat the Wallabies in that thrilling Sydney test in 2000, a new version of the balanced brutality Savea possesses.

Stories of Savea's attacking venom followed his starring role at the Junior World Championships in 2010.

He crushed opponents or left them clutching shadows as his work provoked cries of Lomu II. Expectations at the Hurricanes were high for the 1.92m, 108kg bundle of explosive power. There were moments, but nowhere near enough, as Savea struggled with his handling and the defensive side of his game in a dozen matches for the Canes last year.

This season has been different.

His work under the high ball has been much more assured, his positional play and security on defence has gone up several notches while his attacking play can be devastating.

His late burst killed off the Highlanders and signalled he was ready for a place in an extended All Blacks squad.

A quality footballer like Jane was a certain pick for the wing while Savea's form and talent demanded one of the backup places.

His performance and Saturday's virtuoso finish declared "this is my time".

Last night's injury to Richard Kahui might elevate Savea further.

Others like Zac Guildford, Hosea Gear and Rudi Wulf bring strong qualities without that little extra sting.

Guildford is the speedster and Gear the powerful glider who drift in and out of games, Wulf is the the allrounder with a low mistake rate. All three have played for the All Blacks and performed well.

But Savea hints at something special, a player to pick now to show his worth at the next level while his confidence is high.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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