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

Rugby: Savea's debut sure to be super

All Black's teen brother exciting recruit for Hurricanes

Ardie Savea says he's thrilled to be making the step up from ITM Cup to Super rugby. Photo / Getty Images
Ardie Savea says he's thrilled to be making the step up from ITM Cup to Super rugby. Photo / Getty Images

If you watch any rugby this weekend, it should probably be the Hurricanes versus the Waratahs at Westpac Stadium tonight.

Neither team has produced remarkably compelling form this season but the game features the Super rugby debut of Ardie Savea.

The younger brother of All Blacks wing Julian is only 19 but his ITM Cup campaign for Wellington last year was one of the most eye-catching by a teenager in the provincial competition in years.

It seemed only a matter of time before he progressed to the next level and he was promptly contracted to the Hurricanes for two seasons.

Everything looked on course for the former Rongotai College head boy to continue his rise in the game before he was given a harsh four-week suspension for a dangerous tackle in the final pre-season outing against the Chiefs on a farm in Mangatainoka in February.

Savea's hit on Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu didn't injure the No 9, nor did it warrant a mention from either coach in the post-match wrap, but the citing commissioner saw enough to delay Savea's entry to Super rugby by a month.

Three games for the development XV recently have been the 1.88m loose forward's lot, until today.

"I've been told a lot that it's quite a step up," Savea said of the jump from ITM Cup to Super rugby.

"But I'm ready and I'm just excited and I know that the nerves will kick in on game-day but I'll take it."

For a bloke who lists drama as his favourite subject at school on his Hurricanes player profile, Savea is noticeably nervous when speaking to a group of journalists, but luckily for him his on-field actions will speak louder than his short responses in a media scrum.

Savea spent his four weeks on the sidelines trying to give his best impression of a sponge as he soaked up all the knowledge on offer from senior openside flankers Karl Lowe and Jack Lam.

"Everyone's frustrated sitting there watching the games, but throughout the four weeks you learn a lot," Savea insisted.

"Through that four weeks you get an opportunity to learn about the game, train your position and the teams around you; and that's what I've been doing.

"Lowey's been helping me out a lot with Jack Lam so that's pretty good."

Of all the notes he took during his study sessions, Savea said his tackling technique wasn't something that needed work.

"That was a one off," he said of his suspension-inducing hit.

"I'm not usually the type of player to actually hurt someone so I'll just go out there and hopefully play my game and not do any illegal stuff."

Savea's battle with Waratahs tearaway openside Michael Hooper might be worth the price of admission to the Cake Tin alone and the debutant said he had done his revision on the Wallabies flanker, who is still a young man himself at only 21.

"I've watched him when he's played for Australia," Savea said. "He's a quality No 7. I'm really looking forward to playing against him. It will be tough but it will be good."

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was sweating on No 8 Victor Vito's tight calf overnight and was expected to make a call on his fitness some time today.

If the All Black was to be ruled out, Faifili Levave would move to the back of the scrum and Lam would be summoned to the bench for his first appearance of the season.

The match shapes as crucial for both sides as the Hurricanes, who have won their past three outings, sit in seventh place on the Super Rugby standings, while the 3-3 Waratahs are one behind them in eighth.

Canes v Waratahs

Wellington, 7.35 tonight

Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (c), Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Parenara, Victor Vito/Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Jason Eaton, Mark Reddish, Ben May, Motu Matu'u, Ben Franks.
Reserves: Ash Dixon/Reggie Goodes, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen/Reggie Goodes, James Broadhurst, Faifili Levave/Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi, Reynold Lee-Lo.

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Peter Betham, A. Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Pat McCutcheon, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (c), Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Sekope Kepu, John Ulugia, Benn Robinson
Reserves: Luke Holmes, Paddy Ryan, Mitchell Chapman, Wycliff Palu, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola, Tom Kingston


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