It seems an odd cause to lose the All Blacks’ captaincy over.
Sam Cane’s pectoral injury wasn’t just set to keep Ardie Savea in New Zealand’s starting XV, but perhaps seen him named skipper too.
Savea is a phenomenal rugby player, who’s overcome various challenges to become one of this country’s finest and most-popular athletes. Many thought he’d never make it this far in the game because he wasn’t big enough to prosper on the international stage.
Savea’s always used that as fuel to prove the doubters wrong and who can argue?
New Zealand needs a starting openside flanker in Cane’s absence and it’s hard to say Savea isn’t the ideal alternative. Particularly when you consider that – after all this time and despite all his considerable deeds in the black jersey – that maybe he is just too small to play No.8 or blindside flanker anymore.
You put Savea at 7, you make him captain and very quickly Cane’s absence ceases to be a major concern. Frankly, it’s the openside and captaincy arrangement that many favour anyway.
Only can the All Blacks’ captain also be a bloke who picks fights with the journalists on social media? Who lectures newsmakers on what’s fair game and what’s not?
I don’t care what Highlanders playmaker Josh Ioane gets up to in his spare time. I haven’t read a word about his alleged misdeeds, or of those who frequent his apparent party house.
What I do know is the blood of a rugby writer runs cold when this kind of story emerges. No-one minds having a pop at blokes who don’t perform on the paddock, but they absolutely dread having to write about events off it.
There’s a belief – promulgated by players such as Savea – that we love all this stuff. That we relish the whiff of scandal and yearn to take these blokes down a peg or two.
The thing rugby writers actually wish for more than anything, is the opportunity to only write about rugby. Not men behaving badly or sabbaticals or rights deals or annual general meetings or diversity or social media musings.
But I digress.
All Black captains ensure errant players are pulled into line. They help decide whether those who misbehave are still welcome within the squad.
They don’t take to some squalid social media platform to lecture people on what journalists are entitled to report on and what they’re not.
‘Shut up and dribble’ is an increasingly-familiar refrain in the United States, where people have grown weary of basketball stars such as LeBron James.
No, that’s not quite fair. It’s not just basketball players that people dislike being told what to think and how to live by. They have a problem with anyone with a profile and sufficient hubris – be they actors, musicians, politicians, whoever – deciding who can be criticised and who can’t.
I have great admiration for Ardie Savea and have written so many times. I’m surprised that he sought to insert himself into the Highlanders’ story, but he clearly felt Ioane and company had been unfairly maligned.
And maybe he feels players in this country aren’t given sufficient voice. That too many twerps with typewriters have too much to say and need to be put in their place.
That leaders like himself can change not only individual narratives – but minds too – by speaking out on social media.
Again, though, these probably aren’t the actions of an All Blacks captain. Or any skipper for that matter.
I wrote recently that perhaps Savea’s greatest challenge at the helm of the Hurricanes, would be disguising his disdain for the media. No captain has to like the folk with the tape recorders and cameras, but you should at least try to be respectful.
If I were king, Ardie Savea would be the skipper and starting No.7 every time the All Blacks took the park. Were he able to use that status wisely, Savea has the intellect and charisma to be a transformative figure who broadened the minds of many New Zealanders.
But he won’t manage much of that while he’s busy being a journalistic judge and jury on Twitter.
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