It's time for Ardie Savea to be let loose

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014
Ardie Savea
Getty Images
FLYING HIGH: Hurricanes openside Ardie Savea would add some athleticism if named to play the Brumbies at Westpac Stadium.

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It's time to remove the cotton wool wrapped around Hurricanes openside Ardie Savea.

Two weeks into Super Rugby, one the country's more highly rated athletes has barely registered.

Oddly not required against the Sharks in Durban, Savea got just 15 minutes off the bench during the 19-18 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town.

The Hurricanes campaign needs a shot in the arm after back-to-back losses and unleashing their 20-year-old ball of energy against the Brumbies on Friday night would be a good place to start.

His case for inclusion should be bolstered by news yesterday that Wallabies openside David Pocock will not be coming to Wellington and could be out for the season with a knee injury.

Coach Mark Hammett's unlikely to change too much when he names his side today after his players mostly acquitted themselves well in Cape Town, but the Hurricanes attack could do with a dynamic link man after stuttering through the opening fortnight.

Blindside Faifili Levave and openside Jack Lam were in rude form in South Africa and Blade Thomson made a good fist of his time at No 8.

But without the injured Brad Shields and Victor Vito, there has been a lack of explosiveness in close with ball in hand.

It'd be nice to see Lam and Savea work in tandem, the former as the forager in midfield, the latter out wide where the Brumbies love to set rucks going the same way in attack until they reach the touchline.

Last year Savea took the Waratahs to the cleaners at Westpac Stadium, but after being outmuscled a week later at Eden Park he's been packed into a crate of styrofoam and bubble wrap.

Blues coach John Kirwan showed the benefits of backing young talent against the Crusaders when he tossed starting jerseys to Simon Hickey, Tevita Li and Patrick Tuipulotu.

Savea wasn't an All Blacks apprentice last season for no reason. It'd be a pity if the Hurricanes campaign was half over before they utilised his full array of skills.

The Brumbies don't appear to have an out-and-out openside replacement for Pocock with Wellington-born Jarrad Butler, Palmerston North-born Jordan Smiler and Lachlan McCaffery all more accustomed to blindside or No 8.

The squad is also missing big No 8 Fotu Auelua who is out for the first 10 weeks of the season after tearing his medial ligament in a pre-season trial.

The Brumbies arrive in Wellington tomorrow full of confidence after piling on the points during an opening half-hour blitz in Perth on Sunday before easing to a 27-14 win over the Force.

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- Fairfax Media

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