It is significant that the two teams out on their own in Super Rugby are providing the biggest selection headaches for their coaches because, in terms of attacking ability, you can never have too much if you're aiming to win a competition.

That's where Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and his Hurricanes counterpart John Plumtree find themselves after two extremely dominant victories by their teams over the weekend, the former over the Lions and latter against the Chiefs.

Robertson must now work out how to fit the excellent Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Braydon Ennor, Will Jordan, George Bridge, David Havili and Sevu Reece into five positions, while Plumtree has a back three conundrum, with Jordie Barrett playing so well at fullback against the Chiefs that the coach must be tempted to leave him there; but where to put Chase Tiatia when Ben Lam returns from injury when Wes Goosen is playing so well on the right?

And yet, while Robertson's side look unbeatable at home this season and will be hot favourites to equal their record streak of 26 victories in Christchurch when they play the Sharks on Friday, the one advantage Plumtree has over Robertson and the rest of the competition is openside flanker Ardie Savea, a man in career-best form who is becoming one of the most dominant forwards in Super Rugby.


As a coach you can legislate for the threat of midfield or outside backs by trying to deny them space and possession. It is harder to do that when targeting a threat among an opposition's loose forwards, although the All Blacks did it successfully against the Wallabies in the 2011 World Cup semifinal when they ran all night at David Pocock, then the best turnover winner around, the logic being that he couldn't steal the ball if he was under a pile of bodies.

But such is Savea's all-round excellence that he is near untouchable at the moment. How can you target a player who is so unpredictable, a forward with the pace of an outside back who is re-defining what is possible for an openside flanker?

Ardie Savea celebrates a Hurricanes victory. Photo / Photosport
Ardie Savea celebrates a Hurricanes victory. Photo / Photosport

He is so explosive with the ball in contact and near the tryline, and so quick and aware in open spaces that he is almost single-handedly raising his side's chances of making it deep into the playoffs.

There is little chance of the 25-year-old being worried about responsibilities or expectations, either. He showed last year with his run of tests in the absence of Sam Cane that he thrives on it, and Plumtree said as much in Wellington after the Chiefs were dispatched.

"Ardie is a leader in our side," Plumtree said. "He's a player that everyone looks up to. He looks forward to that responsibility week after week and he steps up – not unlike TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, the key players for us."

Skipper Perenara was a little more blunt. "Ardie is a freak," he said. "He can do things on a rugby field that no one else can do. His running into contact and his leg drive post-contact – they are things that normal No 7s don't do.

"He makes runs, he makes tackles, he wins turnovers like any other No 7 in the world, but what he does on top of that is better than any other No 7 in the world. The way that he can impact a game and change a game for us – he's been doing that a long time. It's being noticed a lot more now but he's been playing that way for a long time now."

How to solve a problem like Ardie? On Saturday the Rebels will be the next team to try.