Julian Savea will have a point to prove against the Jaguares in Wellington on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
An out-of-shape Savea was dropped for the Canes' match against the Kings two weeks ago and sent away to work on his fitness. Coach Chris Boyd has recalled the winger for round seven of Super Rugby, saying 'he's done everything we've asked of him' although the 25-year-old is clearly not yet in peak condition.
It's not the first time Savea has been punished for eating too many pies. When the Hurricanes reduced their training load at the business end of last year's Super Rugby tournament, Savea put on weight due to 'a lack of physical activity and less than optimal diet', as the New Zealand Herald diplomatically put it. As a result, Savea didn't make an appearance for the All Blacks until their third match of the Rugby Championship after doing three weeks of fitness work.
That work paid off with Savea going on to have a good World Cup campaign, the highlight of which was his hat-trick in the quarter-final against France. However, he fell back into bad habits this season, resulting in his axing from a Canes team that needs him to be at his best.
Last year's finalists made a poor start to 2016, being blown away by the Brumbies and edged by the Highlanders. They've since beaten the Blues, Force and Kings, but still haven't come close to hitting their straps and will be hoping for a more convincing performance against the Jaguares.
The Argentinian franchise won their first ever Super Rugby match, against the Cheetahs, but have now lost four in a row, to the Sharks, Chiefs, Stormers and Blues. Their expansive game has won them lots of fans, but not many matches, and they need to cut down on their error rate if they're to turn their season around on Saturday.
The Canes have made six changes to their starting XV for this clash. In the backline, Savea regains the No 11 jersey, with Jason Woodward moving to fullback. Among the forwards, Brad Shields is at blindside flank and Victor Vito at No 8, which sees Blade Thomson moving into the second row. Reggie Goodes is back at loosehead prop.
For the Jaguares, Nicolás Sánchez regains the No 10 jersey with Santiago González Iglesias moving to 12, while Santiago García Botta starts at loosehead.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first meeting.
STATS AND FACTS
– The Hurricanes have won 11 of their last 13 matches against teams from outside New Zealand, including the last two by a combined scoreline of 83-26.
– The Hurricanes have won their last six regular season home matches in Super Rugby having scored 139 points across their last three such fixtures.
– Despite having won only one match from their five so far in Super Rugby, the Jaguares are yet to lose a fixture by more than eight points and have lead at half-time in two of their last four.
– The Hurricanes average 123 carries per game, the most of any team after five rounds this season, and they’re one of only three teams (Chiefs, Lions) to average more than half a kilometre gained over the advantage line each match (541m).
– Martín Landajo has made eight breaks so far this season, the most of any scrumhalf in the competition.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Hurricanes||Beauden Barrett (57)||TJ Perenara (4)||Beauden Barrett (237)||Ardie Savea (55)|
|Jaguares||Nicolás Sánchez (35)||Martín Landajo (3)||Santiago Cordero (266)||Pablo Matera (38)|
Hurricanes – 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Willis Halaholo, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Blade Thomson, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reggie Goodes.
Subs: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Otere Black, 23 Matt Proctor.
Jaguares – 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matiás Orlando, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (c), 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Santiago García Botta.
Subs: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Roberto Tejerizo, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Cruz Guillemaín, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, Brett Johnson
TMO: Ben Skeen
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images