RUGBY: The Hurricanes are going to start the biggest game of their season without the biggest name in their team.
Julian Savea, the man hailed as the world’s best wing and, in 2014, a better player than Jonah Lomu, has been dropped to the bench for the Super Rugby quarter-final clash with the Sharks at Westpac Stadium tonight.
The remarkable aspect of that decision is that it comes with only moderate shock value. Savea has battled for form all year and delivered little in the way of devastating finishing.
Since he returned from Test action last month under pressure to turn his season around after a mediocre series, he still hasn’t managed to play with the consistency or authority that either he or the Hurricanes hoped for.
They are desperate to do what they failed to do last year and claim their maiden title, and with the luxury of choice, Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has opted for Jason Woodward on the left wing.
With Matt Proctor recovering from a hamstring strain it was a relatively easy decision to reunite him in the midfield with the powerful Willis Halohalo. That left Boyd with a straight choice to make between Savea and Woodward and he felt the latter had made the more compelling case.
“We had some tough choices, but we believe we’ve picked the best team to play the Sharks,” Boyd said.
“We’ve got some real depth and at the end of the day we pick the team on form and what we think is best for the team.”
Savea now faces a more difficult battle to recover his form and provide the All Blacks selectors with a sliver of confidence that he’s rebuilding towards his best.
He’s been accused in recent times of trying too hard – something that may be hard to prevent if he’s injected off the bench with limited time to prove himself.
But he’s fast running out of time and options and his only way back to regular Test action is to start playing better – even if it is off the bench.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.