Julian Savea 'in best place' with touring party
Coping with intensive scrutiny surrounding his personal life will be a major challenge as Julian Savea attempts to regain some normality this week in Pretoria.
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett is standing by his embattled All Black who faces a domestic assault charge, believing the best place for Savea is in South Africa with his team-mates.
Savea withdrew himself from the Hurricanes team which lost 18-16 to the Stormers on Friday but he boarded a plane yesterday as part of a 25-man squad - missing promising openside flanker and younger brother Ardie - to the republic.
After seeking outside counsel, Hammett concluded Savea was in the right head space to play the Bulls this week.
"Absolutely he will be," Hammett said when asked if Savea would take the field. "He's an All Black winger and his performances to date have said nothing but select me. He'll be available for selection.
"From the professional advice we've received, the best thing is to get the individual back into normal working life as a professional rugby player.
"We took last week day by day. It's something new to us but as always we endeavour to do the right thing by him and all parties involved."
In a rugby context, Hammett has more pressing issues after Motu Matu'u suffered a fractured forearm against the defensively brutal Stormers in Palmerston North, leaving the Hurricanes with another hooking crisis.
Hawke's Bay rake Ash Dixon is likely to be promoted to the starting side with prop Reggie Goodes providing cover. Despite sending Hammett a text to say he was ready to play, All Black Dane Coles remains sidelined with a fractured cheekbone.
Earlier this year the Hurricanes called up Jason Rutledge but the Southland veteran has since rejoined the Highlanders. In the meantime, Hammett is frantically attempting to locate a hooker.
"We're still going through that process with the NZRU at the moment," he said. "We would like to get some more cover. We're looking everywhere to be quite honest. We'd hope to have that player before this game against the Bulls. I don't want to comment on who we are looking at. We've still got to get through the paper work."
The trip to Africa is rather daunting for the Hurricanes. This will make or break their season - cauldrons don't get any more intimidating than Loftus Versfeld.
The Canes were dismantled by the Stormers' rolling maul and the bully boy Bulls are sure to test them in this area. Otherwise, Hammett's men weren't far off. Their attack could use some variations but the composure and patience being demonstrated suggests they are slowly maturing.
If their forward pack can match the physical efforts of blindside Brad Shields and prop Ben Franks, they will be halfway to reviving their campaign.
"Brad has been going outstandingly well," Hammett said. "We've got Faifili Levave who has been a real strength but Brad has been keeping him out. That says a lot. He's an exceptional prospect and one the All Blacks will be really keen on. As New Zealanders we like our sixes to be dominant figures, not doing the fancy stuff; in the graft and tackle. Brad has shown that."
Sunday Star Times