Julian and Ardie Savea have combined to make 64 appearances for the All Blacks but the younger brother said nothing compared to the nerves he felt today.

The Saveas this afternoon took their talents to the tennis court, facing off with Venus and Serena Williams as part of an all-star charity doubles exhibition match in Auckland.

"It was more nerve-racking waiting to go out than a test match," Ardie said. "We were like little kids. When we walked out we were like, 'Oh my gosh!' We were kind of starstruck.

"But once we got out there and got to rub shoulders with the sisters it was quite relaxing and we just enjoyed ourselves."


In front of a sold out crowd at the ASB tennis centre - with more than $65,000 raised for the Kaikoura earthquake recovery efforts - the All Black duo acquitted themselves well against sport's greatest sister act, despite a distinct lack of practise.

"None until about three days ago," Ardie said of his previous tennis experience. "And that was for about 30 minutes. But [Julian] goes out all the time. He thinks he's a tennis player."

The charity event started with the Williams sisters playing alongside Kiwis Marina Erakovic and Jade Lewis in doubles, before the Savea brothers took the court in possibly the greatest mismatch in tennis history.

The rugby players surprised with some decent touches, though were helped when former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki made a surprise appearance to join the Savea duo. Julian also improved when he was given a gigantic Wilson racquet, almost three times the size of a normal racquet.

"It was very different but it was awesome," Julian said of the experience. "The fun thing about it was seeing out there in action and in their comfort zone. We definitely appreciate the skill that goes into the game."

That appreciation was mutual and, while not counting herself as a rugby fan, Venus said the showdown with the All Black duo was a "perfect start" to 2017.

"It was a great show - I couldn't stop laughing after every point," she said. "Those guys are awesome. Their athleticism shows up and they're good sports to come out here. I love sport and have a major appreciation of what it takes to be at the top level and to maintain it."

Unfortunately for the fans who will next week visit Stanley St, the demands of the top level of tennis meant the sisters would be sticking to singles at the ASB Classic.


"We talked about [playing doubles together] a lot but then thought that perhaps we shouldn't start the year that fast," Venus said. "We just want to ease into it and play some matches then maybe play doubles at the Australian Open."

Ardie Savea and Julian Savea take on the tennis stars. Photo / Doug Sherring
Ardie Savea and Julian Savea take on the tennis stars. Photo / Doug Sherring