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Savea stirred by Hurricanes success in Super Rugby

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Ardie Savea has watched from Japan with a mixture of delight, surprise and trepidation as his Super Rugby Pacific team, the Hurricanes, have won their first six matches in the 2024 season.

The unprecedented start for the Wellington-based Hurricanes continued Saturday when they produced their best performance so far in a 47-12 away win over the Dunedin-based Highlanders.

Savea has played more than 130 times for the Hurricanes and has never seen them play better. His slight trepidation is that when he returns from Japan later this year there might not be a place for him in a winning lineup.

“Going good Bro. I don’t want to jinx it man,” Savea said to the Associated Press from Kobe where he is playing for the Kobelco Kobe Steelers.

“Early days. It’s awesome to see some of the boys I played with just flourishing and shining the light.

“It’s amazing to see and I don’t even know if there will be space for me to come back. They’re playing awesome. I’m happy for the brothers. I’m happy for the franchise and it’s great to see,” he added.

Savea hasn’t watched a lot of the current Super Rugby season while in Japan. He wanted a complete break from New Zealand rugby and he consciously has not dwelt on developments at home.

But he has followed the Hurricanes and the progress of his brother Julian, the “Bus”, at Moana Pasifika. Julian Savea earlier this season became the all-time leading try-scorer in Super Rugby with 61. Current Hurricanes scrumhalf T.J. Perenara is nipping at his heels after scoring his 60th try in his 154th match for the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Savea hasn’t seen enough to be certain what has changed at the Hurricanes but has a sense that a new head coach — the Scotland-born former New Zealand sevens coach Clark Laidlaw — and a young roster is at the heart of the change.

“Whatever they’re doing it’s bloody working and it’s awesome,” Savea said. “I think maybe without myself there, (Julian Savea), (Dane Coles)...the older guys — I’m not older — it’s allowed the younger boys to flourish and step up and lead and take charge.

“I think that’s awesome, seeing some young boys come up and play big games and perform well. The big thing is the consistency with the Canes, winning (six) games...they haven’t done that in a while.

“Clark has come into the picture and is obviously doing an amazing job.”

Savea has been in top form in the 12 matches he has played so far for the Steelers in Japan League One, scoring four tries against Toyota Verblitz which is coached by former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

He believes League One compares in standard with Super Rugby but has the advantage of being more multi-national. But Savea pinpoints one notable difference between Japan and New Zealand rugby.

“I’d say the biggest freshener for me and no disrespect to the (Kiwi) fans is that over here Kobe lost three in a row and the fans would turn up to the stadium with the posters, with the signs. They love us regardless if we win, lose or draw,” Savea said.

“In New Zealand, lose one game and they’re like ‘drop his ass.‘

“Over here in Japan, you’ve got none of that. The only pressure, the only demand is the one you put on yourself. That mental side is the expectation within the team, your coach and yourself. You don’t have to deal with those external factors. The fans love you whether you win or lose.”

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AP rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby