Savea surviving acid test, confirming place
After the euphoria and reality check of his first two All Blacks tests, Julian Savea has slotted into a routine and is rapidly establishing himself as the first choice for the team's No 11 jersey.
His debut against Ireland was something every schoolboy dreams of, scoring a hat-trick.
But he went into reverse in the second Ireland test, putting in a shocking performance and one that was bad enough to give Hosea Gear another chance.
He earned a reprieve for the test against Argentina in Wellington a fortnight ago and went on to score his fourth test try.
But perhaps the most important game of this 22-year-old's life was last weekend against the Springboks in Dunedin.
Although Savea didn't score a try, he coped with the aerial bombardment that came his way.
Savea has a reputation for struggling under the high ball and the Springboks went into the test with a game plan of kicking to Savea as much as they could.
However, he handled it well and no longer can he be regarded as a liability regarding this part of his game. By rights, he should go on to have a long and successful All Blacks career.
Savea says he's getting used to life in the All Blacks and that's helping him to play well.
“It gets easier once you're consistently getting starts,” Savea said.
“You grow accustomed to the combinations and you know the calls, so it becomes a lot easier.”
Savea knew that when he lost his place in the starting team to Gear he'd have to be patient.
He kept working hard at training and hoped that it would not be too long before he'd get a decent run again.
“I was waiting for an opportunity.
“I was ready to go, I was excited.
"I was pumped and I was ready to take it on with everything I got.
“You've got to try to stay level headed and keep trucking along.
“But it is one thing to make it here and it's another to stay in this environment.
"My next ambition is to stay in the squad and be here for the next few years to come.
“It's exciting because there is new talent coming up and it makes you want to train and work harder and do all of the things right.”
Like all players, Savea is given advice by the All Blacks coaches on how to improve.
He said Ian Foster and Steve Hansen have asked him to look for the action more.
“The most important thing is getting involved in the game and that's my goal at the moment,” he said.
“I am doing all of my work ons, my high balls and stuff as well as passing.
“But if you can't pass because you're not getting around the field, then you can't do all of the other stuff.
“So my main task every week is to get involved as much as I can.”
While Savea is getting used to life in the All Blacks environment, his seating position on the team bus hasn't changed much.
“I'm still up the front and one of the new boys. I sit next to Beauden [Barrett], he's my seat buddy.”