The man they call The Bus is back with the Hurricanes, but fans shouldn’t hold their breath for Julian Savea’s immediate return to the No 11 jersey he made his own.
The former blockbusting All Blacks wing who scored 46 tries in 54 tests has been snapped up by the injury-hit Hurricanes for their final two matches of Super Rugby Aotearoa, coach Jason Holland confirmed on Monday.
He comes in for Ben Lam who played his 50th and final match for the Hurricanes in the 34-32 win over the Crusaders, and is France-bound to join Bordeaux.
Star second five-eighth Ngani Laumape is also out with a season-ending broken forearm that requires surgery on Thursday, with Holland expecting he would be sidelined until early November.
Savea farewelled the Hurricanes after his 116th match in the 2018 semifinal defeat to the Crusaders, and joined French club Toulon. It was a turbulent stay and his form was publicly criticised by the club’s owner, then in May announced he was returning to New Zealand.
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Younger brother Ardie sparked speculation on Twitter, saying “see you soon” but the Hurricanes deflected questions on Sunday night.
Savea’s been based in Auckland and despite not having played a competitive match in recent months, Holland was happy to snap up the 29-year-old.
“He’s been working pretty hard by the sound of it. He’s played 100 games for the Hurricanes and is a big part of what’s happened here in the past and we’re looking forward to the experience he can bring in for two weeks and help the boys along and compete in that outside backs spot,” Holland said.
Julian Savea posted on Twitter: “Looking forward to rejoining my brothers down at the Hurricanes for the remainder of the season. Blessed to get this opportunity and very grateful. Back to where it all started”.
The Hurricanes have the bye this weekend after notching their fourth straight win, and Savea would not be considered to face the Chiefs in Wellington on August 8, Holland said.
Kobus van Wyk, who was omitted for the impressive Wes Goosen on Saturday, Salesi Rayasi and Jonah Lowe are all contenders for the No 11 jersey.
Said Holland of Savea: “He hasn’t played any club footy and we’re looking to see how we go in that first week. Jules won’t be in the hunt for that 11 jersey for the Chiefs game and we’ll see what happens after that. He hasn’t played too much footy and he’s been training hard but he’ll ease his way into it.”
Savea’s Mitre 10 Cup side is yet to be confirmed, and Wellington Lions have said they are not chasing his signature at this stage. Holland was unsure of Savea’s future plans and said he’d been signed for this year only.
“He’s back in New Zealand and he’s keen to play footy and wants to get on the park and do what he does. Anything more than that I’m not sure.”
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