Savea knew ban likely after 'bad' tackle
SAM WORTHINGTON AND DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
A "gutted" Ardie Savea has apologised to Augustine Pulu for a dangerous tackle and puts his four-week Super Rugby suspension down to bad technique.
The Hurricanes flanker was yesterday found guilty of a lifting tackle on the Chiefs halfback in the 78th minute of Saturday's pre-season game in Mangatainoka.
It robs the competition of one of New Zealand's brightest talents while Karl Lowe is set for a heavy workload over the first month, starting with Saturday's season opener against the Blues at Westpac Stadium.
The Hurricanes' other specialist openside, Jack Lam, is still recovering from off-season knee surgery.
Savea, 19, was one of the stars of Wellington's NPC campaign last year and his phenomenal athleticism has drawn comparisons to the great Michael Jones.
He is widely expected to follow older brother Julian into the All Blacks but Savea yesterday cut a remorseful figure as he addressed the media at Newtown's Rugby League Park.
"Obviously quite gutted," said Savea, who is yet to play a Super Rugby game.
"But I kind of knew it was coming. It was a bad tackle from the looks of it, looking through the video and I'd just like to apologise to Augustine again ... It was a turnover, he got the ball and I just went in, ball-and-all tackle. I obviously lifted him up, didn't mean to, and lost control in the air and it ended bad."
Asked whether he felt the punishment fit the crime, he said: "Ah, look, it was a dangerous tackle.
"I'm just putting it down to bad technique and four weeks is what they said and I've just got to live with it ... I got told expect the worst so I did and yeah, four weeks."
Savea said he would treat the setback as a learning curve and was determined not to be a negative influence around the team.
He would use the time off to work on his weaknesses and fulfil Hurricanes promotional obligations.
Judicial officer Nigel Hampton, QC, said the tackle was "clumsy with elements of recklessness".
Savea's poor technique had contributed to the dangerous nature of the tackle as he lost control, posing potential risk of injury to Pulu's neck or head.
"The player has acknowledged the tackle was poorly executed and I have considered his early admission of fault as being in his favour," Hampton said.
"I deem the tackle to be in the mid-range of seriousness. Taking into account all the mitigating factors, and this young man's impressive character and conduct through this process, I have decided a sanction of no less than four weeks is appropriate."
Savea will miss games against the Blues, Reds, Crusaders and Highlanders.
Meanwhile, Blues coach John Kirwan has added to the pressures building on the Hurricanes ahead of their season opener.
Kirwan is enjoying the underdogs tag for the match, believing his new-look outfit is two years behind the Hurricanes' rebuild.
"They have been talking about winning the competition and I think they should be," Kirwan said.
"They have an exciting squad. Mark [Hammett] has been working hard for a couple of years.
"The Hurricanes are real contenders. We are the underdogs going into this game and we should be.
"They have been building for a couple of years. We just need to go down there and have a go.
"There is no pressure on us, it's all on them."
- The Dominion Post