Hurricanes coach opens up on future of All Blacks stars
SPOTLIGHT: Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland has dropped a hint over whether star players Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea will stay at the franchise beyond this season.
Both Barrett – who is still signed on with New Zealand Rugby until next year – and Savea are off-contract with the Hurricanes this season and will be top priorities at the negotiating table for the Wellington-based side heading into the off-season.
Teams both within New Zealand and abroad will no doubt be circling the All Blacks duo, but Holland is “pretty confident” the pair will stay onboard with the Hurricanes.
“I’m pretty optimistic,” Holland said. “You might have read this week, Ards [Savea] is one that definitely likes to leave things till [the end of the season], get the footy out of the way and then start those conversations, but she’s looking pretty positive with Jordie.
“We’ve had some positive chats and I’m pretty confident there. I am pretty confident, but you never say never until these things are done.”
Savea told media last week he is yet to decide where his future lies beyond this year, but added he will begin to weigh up his options once the Super Rugby season had concluded.
Of Samoan heritage, the 49-Test All Black has been linked with a potential move to new Super Rugby franchise Moana Pasifika, but Savea suggested it would be difficult to leave the Hurricanes given his stature within the franchise’s set-up.
“I still haven’t decided what I’m doing just yet,” he said last week. “I’ve kind of been focusing on getting my [knee] injury right.
“That’s been my only focus for the last couple of weeks, so I haven’t really thought about it, but I should do.
“Being a leader of this team, you just want to stay in the moment, stay present, and I think for me my mindset has just been to get the boys ready for this week and I haven’t really thought too far ahead.
“But probably after this week or next I will start to think about that stuff.”
Barrett, meanwhile, was chased by the Blues while off-contract in 2019. Had he taken that offer to relocate to Auckland, he would have played alongside his brother Beauden.
The 24-year-old had also been courted by the Crusaders, where his other brother Scott is co-captain, and Chiefs before signing his first deal with the Hurricanes ahead of the 2017 season.
It’s not unfeasible to think Barrett would attract similar interest again this year, but Holland’s comments indicate the fullback is primed to stay in Wellington for at least another year.
Although the loss of Ngani Laumape to Stade Francais will leave a hefty hole in next year’s Hurricanes roster, the retention of TJ Perenara and additions of former All Blacks duo Owen Franks and Dominic Bird will bolster Holland’s squad significantly.
However, Holland conceded he is still in the market for another flyhalf, despite the impressive performances of talented youngster Ruben Love, who caught the eye in his seven appearances for the franchise this year.
Next year, the 20-year-old will be joined by fellow prodigy Aidan Morgan, another 20-year-old flyhalf who last month inked a three-year deal with the Hurricanes.
Love and Morgan have played alongside each other for the New Zealand Schools and Wellington Lions sides in recent years and will again suit up together later this year after they were both named in the New Zealand Under 20 squad last month.
Despite the potential of both players, Holland revealed he is still looking for a third flyhalf to rival the highly-touted duo for playing time in 2022.
“We always need to make sure at 10 we’re solid so there’s probably one more spot there that we need to fill,” Holland said.
“Let’s not forget Rubes [Love] is probably just as capable at 15 as he is at 10, so we’ll see what happens in that space.
“I reckon the last four-to-five weeks have been awesome for him and it will be good to see him kick on for the Wellington Lions.”
By Sam Smith, @RugbyPass