Savea hopes to add polish to power with ABs

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 16:06 05/08/2014
SCORING MACHINE: All Blacks wing Julian Savea will be hunting his 25th try in as many tests, against Argentina tonight.
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SCORING MACHINE: All Blacks wing Julian Savea will be hunting his 25th try in as many tests, against Argentina tonight.

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A born performer with genetically gifted skills, Julian Savea's rugby pathway has been easier than most.

As an emerging superstar his superior size, strength and speed saw him steamroll opponents.

Running over or around players, scoring a swag of tries, gaining plaudits and progressing through representative teams was the norm; hard work and dedication came much later.

''Growing up I was always bigger than everyone else. That was an advantage,'' the 105kg All Blacks left wing said.

''Then again, it's not always a good thing going through all the age groups, you expect everything to happen and you lose the drive and the reasons why you play rugby.

''I learnt that when I went through the [New Zealand] under-20s. I was dropped and told to improve my attitude. That switched the light on in my head.''

Statistics alone - an incredible strike-rate of 23 tries from 22 tests which included four in two outings against England in June - suggest Savea can do no wrong.

But those within the All Blacks environment believe he's only operating at 60 to 70 per cent of his potential - not bad for a bloke increasingly compared to Jonah Lomu and a scary thought for opposition.

On and off the field, the likes of Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith, Kieran Read and Oriental Rongotai team-mate Ma'a Nonu prepare and perform as professionals. That encompasses everything from eating well to methodically stretching after training.

This is where Savea can improve - and in many ways his continued development here is understandable, having succeeded on pure ability for much of his career to date. At 23, he is still learning to extract every ounce of talent. 

Fully grasp those expectations and he will be unstoppable for many years to come.

''They lead by example,'' he acknowledges of the senior figures.

''Every time after training they're stretching. Sometimes I'm really exhausted but I know those off field things make the difference. I'm always trying to get better; never believing you're at your best.''

Part of the problem has been lack of competition.

Every player benefits from someone pushing for their spot. It thwarts complacency.

Since Hosea Gear's departure, only Charles Piutau has come close to challenging Savea's power role which brings crucial balance to the All Blacks' skilfully subtle back three.

''I love the contact, especially when I have the ball in hand. In the back three some of us have a nice step; some of us can break tackles at pace. Look at Cory Jane with his step and fend. We've all got to work together. We compliment each other. The beauty of it at the moment is we're all connecting as a back three.''

Savea says he is typically shy and it's performing where he exudes confidence. He loves the stage; a concept inherent from childhood. Tag-team dance videos with younger brother Ardie showcase his on-field persona and exemplify the confidence to beat his opponent in any situation.

''I've always liked dancing; not that I'm good but I love music, dance and performing. That relates to when I'm on the field, having the confidence to finish when I have the opportunity.

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''My grandparents used to make us - me and my cousins - dance every Sunday when we have our lunches. Growing up I was always shy. Doing this stuff [media] I was uncomfortable, but rugby and dance has brought that confidence out.''

With that same strut and swag, Savea has swiftly become the world's premier wing.

Just imagine him with those finishing touches.

- Stuff

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