As big brother stole the show in Wellington, Hurricanes and All Blacks star proved his readiness after a knee injury layoff.
A contact session on Monday could rubber stamp Hurricanes captain Ardie Saveas return to rugby next week in Napier, after big brother stole the show in their win over the Rebels.
It wasnt always easy on the eye, but thanks to a record-breaking Julian Savea double the Hurricanes eye the Western Force on Friday with maximum points in the bank in Super Rugby Trans-Tasmans race for the top-two final.
As one Savea scored his 57th career try – passing TJ Perenara and Christian Cullens tallies of 56 – in the Hurricanes 35-13 win on Friday night, his younger sibling watched on at Sky Stadium with the clock ticking towards a much-awaited comeback.
Julian Savea has scored two tries to make him the Hurricanes’ all-time top scorer.
The All Blacks loose forward, a contender for the national captaincy in July in the injured Sam Canes absence, hobbled off with a knee injury after playing a starring role against the Crusaders on April 11. His recovery time was set at 6-8 weeks.
READ MORE:* ‘There’s no doubt we can win it’: Hurricanes bullish for Super Rugby Trans-Tasman after harsh lessons* Super Rugby Aotearoa: Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea out for 6-8 weeks with knee injury* Super Rugby: Julian Savea breaks tryscoring record as Hurricanes beat Rebels* Recap: Hurricanes v Rebels, Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Rd 2
Coach Jason Holland originally forecast the Brumbies match on June 5 as Ardie Saveas likely comeback, but said he would be considered for the Force if he trained strongly at Wellington headquarters on Monday.
He [Savea] did a good session today [Friday], a game replacement with the guys who arent playing club footy and he got through that, Holland said.
Theres another couple of steps that he has to get through in the early part of next week to be available and if he doesnt get to where he feels really comfortable, then well wait another week.
Well always back his feel, hes got a pretty good feel for his body. We watched him pretty closely today and well do the same on Monday around another level of contact. Well be guided by him, definitely.
Try time: Hurricanes wing Julian Savea scored four tries in two matches in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
Young first five-eighth Ruben Love could also enter calculations, depending on concussion protocols after his early departure with a heavy knock in Sydney.
The Hurricanes racked up 99 points from two matches against the lowest-ranked Australian sides, notching 15 tries and scoring three more than both opponents to collect dual bonus points.
The Force, third in Super Rugby AU, followed up a one-point loss to the Chiefs with a 25-15 defeat to the Highlanders in the late game on Friday, and face the long-haul flight to New Zealand.
Holland was happy with the Canes defence against the Rebels – he counted just three missed tackles – after they leaked seven tries against the Waratahs.
On attack it was laboured at times and well handled by the Rebels, with Holland unhappy at how they went too laterally instead of taking the direct route which eventually saw them home.
Hurricanes first-five Orbyn Leger tests the Rebels defence in Wellington.
Last in Super Rugby Aotearoa with two wins from eight, the Canes are far from perfect, but victory over the Force will ensure theyre right in title contention.
Youve got to put yourself in the hunt. Ive been asked the question about bonus points and points differential but Im really wary of talking about those things.
We need to think around performance, and those things will take care of themselves. We were better tonight in a number of areas but weve got to keep growing to make sure those wins and tries keep coming. Well see. Weve got another big week, the Force will be another step up and our performance will have to go up as well.
France-bound Ngani Laumape helped the Hurricanes take the direct route with another compelling performance at No 12, while Julian Savea sparked them into life.
A 50m intercept try from the right wing opened their account after a frustrating first quarter, then he latched onto a Billy Proctor break for his double in the 55th minute.
The 30-year-old was playing his 129th Hurricanes match, second only to Perenara (140) on appearances. Cullens 56 tries took just 85 matches, showing how high the brilliant fullback set the bar.
On return from an unhappy stint in France, Savea has been motivated, lively and thirsting for work, ensuring a new deal through to 2023.
Said Holland: I dont think we can claim too much [credit] for that. Jules has been away and probably missed being part of a New Zealand rugby team.
He appreciated it, and understands the team environment and all the things that make a team do well. He knows where to contribute, but firstly hes got himself in great nick so he can play great footy.