Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Savea expected the worst

Ardie Savea. Photo / Getty Images
Ardie Savea. Photo / Getty Images

Ardie Savea knew as soon as he drove Augustine Pulu into the Mangatainoka turf with an illegal tackle on Saturday that he might be in trouble.

The Hurricanes openside flanker received a four-week ban yesterday from judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC and will miss the first month of the Super Rugby season.

"I made the tackle and I got up and the game was in play so I just played on but straight after I did the tackle was when I thought 'something's going to go down' ... Obviously I did a dangerous tackle,'' the 19-year-old said.

The Hurricanes will now be without two openside flankers for Saturday night's season-opening game against the Blues at Westpac Stadium because Jack Lam is injured.
Savea said the Hurricanes wouldn't appeal against the sanction.

In his ruling, Hampton described the tackle as "clumsy with elements of recklessness''.

He added: "Savea's poor technique contributed to the dangerous nature of the tackle as he lost control, posing potential risk of injury to Pulu's neck or head.

"The player has acknowledged the tackle was poorly executed and I have considered his early admission of fault as being in his favour.

"I deem the tackle to be in the mid-range of seriousness. Taking into account all the mitigating factors, and this young man's impressive character and conduct through this process, I have decided a sanction of no less than four weeks is appropriate,'' Hampton said.

Given Hampton's discount for Savea's youth and previously clean record, the suspension seems harsh when compared with the ban All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore received for a king hit on Welshman Bradley Davies during a test at the Millennium Stadium in November.

Hore's hit, in the opening minutes, knocked out the lock who was sent to hospital. For that he was given a ban of five weeks - three of which have been served by sitting out the Highlanders' pre-season matches. Pulu, on the other hand, was uninjured.

"Obviously I'm quite gutted, but I knew it was coming,'' Savea said of the ban.

"It was a bad tackle from the looks of it from the video and I'd just like to apologise again to Augustine but it is what it is and I've got to face the consequences.''

Savea produced an eye-catching campaign for Wellington in last year's ITM Cup and the Hurricanes have now been shorn of their most exciting prospect in recent years for the first four games of the season.

"It is disappointing but I've just got to move on. I don't want it to have a negative effect on the team so I've just got to stay positive,'' Savea said.

"[I will] use this as a learning curve, I guess and hopefully this makes me stronger and gives me time to work on what I need to work on for the Super season.''

Veteran loose forward Karl Lowe is likely to pull on the No 7 jersey for the Hurricanes this weekend, while Victor Vito could be used there at a pinch.

Manawatu Turbos flanker Callum Gibbins, who is a member of the Hurricanes' wider training group, could also be summoned.

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