Rugby: Bruise bros have black jerseys in sights

Savea siblings give All Black coach plenty to ponder for the future as both boys show off wide portfolio of skills at lightning pace in Super Rugby for Canes.

Rarely has anyone made such a captivating Super 15 debut as Ardie Savea.

His performance provoked the usually circumspect All Black coach Steve Hansen into some glowing observations after the teenage flanker showcased his talents for the Hurricanes against the Waratahs.

After a month cooling his quicksilver heels because of a high-tackle suspension, Savea lit up the Cake Tin in Wellington and gave Hansen selection options in the absence of All Black captain Richie McCaw and Adam Thomson.

Before the Super 15 began, Hansen mentioned Sam Cane as an obvious replacement who could reach similar world-class loose forward standards.

"Young Ardie Savea has limited time with his suspension but has huge potential," the coach added.

That Nostradamus moment is looking good for Hansen after Savea showed a wide portfolio of skills against the Tahs as he outplayed Wallaby flanker Michael Hooper.

For a first appearance it was special. The India-rubber work at the breakdown, the defensive grunt and the open field skills were eye-catching.

"If he can replicate that work against the Blues tomorrow then he will show us he is only going to get better," said Hansen.

He had been on the radar for some time and seemed to have the right mental application for the game at the top level.

"We will be watching him to see his progress, why wouldn't you?"

Brother Julian had continued to dominate his position and improve all the small areas of his game.

"We have just noticed how much his ownership of his roles has advanced," Hansen said.

Compliments about the brothers have flowed since their rugby-mad parents took them to their first training runs.

Father, Masina, was a handy midfield back and mother, Lina, a dab hand at netball after they emigrated from Samoa. Money was pretty tight for some time as they worked hard to raise their sons.

They started their footy at the Oriental-Rongotai club in Wellington and remain there.

Julian turned down the chance of a scholarship to Wellington College to go to Rongotai College where his age-group records for shot put, discus and long jump still stand.

He made the 1st XV in fourth form and was good enough to make the Wellington sevens side when he was 15.

"The boys entered the club at nursery level where they were encouraged to have a go, play ball and code without too many inhibitions," club stalwart Dave Meaclem said.

"Their parents were always very humble and wanted the best for their kids. There was also a strong sibling rivalry.

"They came from a very large extended family but their parents just had the two boys, which showed how mindful they were about wanting the best for their kids. They did the hard yards to give their kids the best chance."

Ardie was a wiry child, not as big as his older brother but equally determined.

He was also more versatile at rugby and would often fill in at centre for Rongotai 1st XV if the side's loose forward roster was full.

Meaclem credits the school's senior teachers for setting the standards they expected from their students.

Down at the Ories rugby club, when the brothers were heading towards the levels reached by John Gallagher, Kupu Vanisi and Ma'a Nonu, everyone was treated the same.

The Savea brothers were rugby players like the rest of the club membership.

"But they are living the dream, they are getting to the point where those are becoming real," said Meaclem.

"Julian has always been bigger and fast and he has shown, when he had trouble with the high ball, how much work he would do to fix that.

"Ardie was a toiler; he always did the hard work and he's always been like that"

Away from rugby, Julian and his partner were parents to a daughter, while Ardie was still living at home and when not playing rugby, dreamed of doing drama.

For two years Julian was the only Hurricane and put aside an average start to be named franchise player of the season in 2012. His work brought him All Black honours and further accolades.

Now Ardie has stepped up. He has been through the secondary schools and sevens circuits, felt the sting of the ITM Cup and is now being tested in the Super 15.

At 98kg he might be a shade light to survive a lengthy Super 15 diet, but that will pan out. What we don't know is whether the Savea brothers will follow the Franks as the next set to wear the famous black jersey.

Ardie Savea

Flanker
Age: 19
Height: 1.88m
Weight: 98kg

Julian Savea

Wing
Age: 22
Height: 1.92m
Weight: 103kg

- NZ Herald

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