The yo-yo season of Julian Savea continues apace.

As he was in the 2016 playoffs, Savea finds himself in the No23 jersey for the crunch semifinal against the Lions in Johannesburg.

It is possibly a harsh call on the All Blacks wing. While in 2016 he was battling fitness issues, and ceded his place to the resourceful Jason Woodward, this season he has mostly played well, despite a high profile knock-on for the All Blacks in the third test against the Lions after earlier missing selection.

A backline reshuffle, which sees Vince Aso back in the centre jersey, Jordie Barrett move to fullback and Nehe Milner-Skudder into the No14 jersey, has also seen Wes Goosen retain his place after a sparky two-try effort against the Brumbies.


Milner-Skudder, while not playing badly, has yet to fully hit his straps and could have been the one to miss out rather than Savea.

"I couldn't really ignore Wes' form," says Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd. "We have said that reputations count for nothing and form will dictate selection. We were keen to get Vince back into the midfield and Jordie back to fullback. That left a logjam, three guys competing for two positions." He said Savea had not played his way out, more that the swift and accurate Goosen played his way in.

Savea could be devastating off the pine if he channels some of his anger at the decision. "He wasn't very happy, but I would be disappointed if he was," says Boyd.

The Lions are unchanged from the side that edged the Sharks 23-21 in last weekend's quarter-final, coach Johann Ackermann placing his faith in most of the men who have taken them to 15 wins in 2017 and top spot on the log, albeit with no clashes against Kiwi sides.

Ackermann, who is soon to join Gloucester as head coach, will be plotting an historic first final in Johannesburg.

"What a team the Hurricanes are. They have proven in the last week why they are such a top side, beating the Crusaders and the Brumbies away from home. I have great respect for the coaches and a great team with a lot of quality All Blacks," says the former Springboks lock.

He said he predicted Savea's axing.

"I just had this funny feeling when we analysed them that when they would have guys back from injury that Julian was going to be the one to miss out.


"Milner-Skudder and Goosen were the form guys."

The Lions lost the 2016 final 20-3 in Wellington against the Hurricanes and, if you were betting people, a Crusaders-Hurricanes final would still be favoured.