Savea throws his weight around

Last updated 05:00 19/02/2014
Ardie Savea
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NO GAIN: Ardie Savea of Wellington is tackled by Andy Ellis of Canterbury.

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Ardie Savea has cracked a ton.

No, the Hurricanes openside hasn't dusted off the cricket whites, he's passed 100kg on the scales.

"I've finally cracked a hundy," the 20-year-old said this week with an audible sense of relief.

It's a significant milestone for a player who operates in a world where physicality defines effectiveness. A few extra kilograms can buy precious seconds at the breakdown.

Turnovers can be won as smaller opponents struggle to shift a greater weight. Bodies can be more easily shunted to create quick clean ball at the ruck.

Savea's natural athletic talent, explosiveness and pure speed saw him taken on the All Blacks' end-of-year tour as an apprentice to Richie McCaw.

It left many Hurricanes fans confused as to how such an immense talent had managed only three Super Rugby appearances in 2013.

Moreover, expectations have soared over summer that he will have a major impact this season.

Victor Vito, Brad Shields and Savea were to be the star trio with Jack Lam, Faifili Levave and others providing coach Mark Hammett with a glut of riches.

Knee injuries to Vito and Shields have quickly depleted the ranks, but Hammett still urges fans to be realistic and patient when it comes to his young openside in only his second year as a professional.

"He's available to be selected every week," Hammett said before suggesting his workload will be carefully managed. "Say he plays the first four games and plays 60 or 70 minutes each game, then we say ‘do we have to manage him?'

"Then again he might make little cameos off the bench and it might mean he maintains where he is [physically] and he goes right through the season. A lot depends how those early games unfold for him."

Which comes back to Savea's weight and whether his new muscle, or "physical pillar" in new rugby-speak, holds up to the rigours of a weekly battering.

Those pushing for Hammett to roll out his young star every match might look at Sam Cane's steady rise for a more realistic model.

Cane began Super Rugby in 2011 with the Chiefs. He weighed a shade under 100kg, but was already marked as a future star.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie played his then 19-year-old openside in five matches that season with just one start.

In 2012 Cane weighed 104kg and played in all 18 matches, with just six starts.

Last season suggested the patience of trainers and coaches paid off in spades with Cane among the best-performed loose forwards in world rugby.

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Savea may experience a similarly staggered workload even if he is chomping at the bit to play every minute of every match.

"Hopefully my body is still in the growing stage, but I'm just focused on making sure I'm strong and doing the right thing in the gym," he said.

"I'm not too sure [how big you need to be]? I guess if you can show you are OK on the field against the big boys then your weight is fine. For me it's just going out and physically trying to be at the same level as the other guys."

The ideal weight for an openside is an interesting question. Statistics suggest somewhere around 103kg is the norm for Super Rugby with only a handful of noticeably bigger or smaller men in the current ranks.

McCaw, at 108kg, represents the latter, while Reds tyro Liam Gill, at 96kg, punches well above his weight.

Whatever unfolds, Savea's larger frame, an All Black tour and a year under his belt has him excited about the season ahead.

"I got a taste of where you need to be to be as an All Black and there were no better people to see that than Richie McCaw and Sam Cane. Just being professional and knowing when to train, when to have fun."

Savea's doing plenty of that, living the dream with older brother Julian. The pair's summer break included a YouTube hit when they filmed themselves in a car dancing to Jason Derulo's song Trumpets.

The fun-filled clip clocked more than 80,000 hits and continues to spurn numerous copycat videos.

Savea is planning a bigger and better sequel, and his rugby career promises the same.


The weights of openside flankers in Super Rugby: 109kg: Marcell Coetzee (Sharks) 108kg: Richie McCaw (Crusaders) 104kg: David Pocock (Brumbies) 103kg: Sam Cane (Chiefs), John Hardie (Highlanders), Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs), Matt Todd (Crusaders) 101kg: Luke Braid (Blues) 100kg: Ardie Savea (Hurricanes) 96kg: Liam Gill (Reds) 

- The Dominion Post


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