Unheralded Crusaders right wing David Havili faces his biggest Super Rugby test in Wellington on Saturday in trying to stop “The Bus” that is Hurricanes wing Julian Savea.
Savea, arguably the most potent left wing in international rugby, has been in menacing form for the table-topping Hurricanes, who start their round 12 match on 38 points, 13 more than the ninth-placed Crusaders.
The Hurricanes have been the Crusaders’ bogey team in recent seasons, winning four of the last five including both games last year.
The last two months have been eventful for the 20-year-old Havili, who has a Crusaders wider training contract.
The talented three-quarter expected to see little game time with the likes of Nemani Nadolo, Israel Dagg, Johnny McNicholl, Jone Macalai, Nafi Tuitavake, Robbie Fruean and Kieron Fonotia all ahead of him.
But a spate of injuries to the Crusaders outside backs led to Havili making his debut off the bench at fullback against the Lions in the fifth round, and he has played all six matches since, named as the starting right wing for the last four.
On Saturday he gets the chance to mark Savea for the first time, the player he looked up to while at Nelson College.
Havili will be conceding considerable height and 20kg to his Hurricanes opposite.
“I’ve been watching him ever since I’ve been at school,” Havili said.
“I really admire his play but I guess I’m just going to get in his face. It’s going to be a really big challenge for me.”
Havili said the Hurricanes back three of Savea, Cory Jane and fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder all required close attention.
“They’re all hot steppers.”
After two consecutive losses, Havili said the Crusaders’ 29-15 win against the Blues last Saturday had brought renewed confidence.
“We played some good footy. Now we have to go there and play our game, cut out the errors and get in their face.”