As part of a new series, RugbyPass will be scouring the world for the most in-form players that the northern and southern hemispheres have to offer and picking a global player of the month. Each winner will receive a donation of $100 to the charity of their choosing, with their form on the field not only helping their club or country, but also a cause close to their heart.
As the Super Rugby season rolls through to its halfway point, only two teams have separated themselves as a cut above the rest. Only the Hurricanes and Crusaders have win rates above 70 percent, with the race to the playoffs littered with many struggling to find consistent results.
The Hurricanes wouldn’t be where they are this season without talismanic leader Ardie Savea, who is making a strong case as the most valuable player in Super Rugby with consistent world-class performances every week.
April was no different as the Hurricanes fought to three wins from three matches over the Highlanders in Dunedin, the Sunwolves in Tokyo and the Chiefs at home in Wellington to keep within touching distance of the Crusaders. Savea only played in two of the three games but delivered instrumental performances in securing wins over key rivals in the New Zealand conference.
Coming off the back of a disastrous 32-8 loss to the Crusaders at home to finish March, the Hurricanes headed south for a derby under the roof in Dunedin with mounting pressure.
Right from the second minute, Savea exerted his influence by stealing a turnover from a Highlanders’ ruck deep inside the Hurricanes’ 22, flipping a pop pass to TJ Perenara to spark a long break. It would be the first of three turnovers won in the match.
With his side down 14-7 on the cusp of halftime and the Highlanders pressing again, Savea came up with a game-changing play, reading a pop pass from Tevita Li off the ground. He snatched it with one arm and powered away 70-metres to keep them in the match.
Perilously positioned down 28-17 with 20-minutes to go, again it was Savea combining with Ben Lam in a power-packed counter-attack, with Lam busting through four defenders before finding the openside who bounced to the outside and finished in the corner after beating two defenders of his own.
He finished with eight tackles at a 100% completion rate, including one on the left-hand touchline chasing down Tevita Li from broken play that brought the winger down less than 10-metres from the try line.
After resting for the side’s trip to Tokyo, Savea followed his Highlanders match with another quality outing against the Chiefs finishing with a game-high 17-tackles on 18 attempts.
With his side up 33-19, Savea delivered the killer blow after stealing Chiefs possession inside his own 22 at the breakdown. He found TJ Perenara who was able to shake a defender and streak away downfield. Backing up, Savea received the final pass from Jordie Barrett and dodged two Chiefs backs to cut inside and score one of the tries of the season.
Captain TJ Perenara lauded Savea’s efforts after the match, and considered him the world’s best at his position when you weigh up the extras that he brings without sacrificing the core duties of the role.
“His ball-into-contact, his leg drive post-contact. It’s probably not what people say a traditional seven does, but when you’re out there doing what he’s doing, he makes tackles, he gets turnovers, he hits rucks like any other seven in the world,” Perenara explained.
“But what he does on top of that, I think is better than anyone else in the world.”
Perenara’s view is backed up by the RugbyPass Index, which rates Savea as the number one openside in the world based on his form over the last 12 months. Savea is currently rated at 92 and has been rated above 90 since his breakout end of year tour last November with the All Blacks.
Savea’s two pivotal performances in April, in the context of a season where he has delivered each and every week for the Hurricanes, earns him the honour of RugbyPass Player of the month.
Kieran Read post-match interview after draw with Sharks:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.