Test rugby’s most potent sibling partnership will start together for the All Blacks for the first time.
After five impressive bench appearances, dynamic flanker Ardie Savea is in the run-on side to face South Africa in Christchurch on Saturday, replacing the injured Sam Cane.
It is the only starting change from the side who roared away late to a 57-22 win over Argentina in Hamilton last week, extending the unbeaten All Blacks’ lead in the Rugby Championship.
Openside flanker Cane suffered a hamstring injury which will sideline him for at least a month, opening the door for 22-year-old Savea to show his prowess from the opening whistle.
He will do it alongside brother Julian, the 46-Test, 42-try winger who is four years his senior.
With Julian returning to his best form in a patchy season, the Saveas represent a twin ball-carrying threat which is the envy of other international teams.
They became the 44th set of All Blacks siblings in the first Test against Wales in June but this week will join just nine others in starting a Test together.
Ardie Savea has been earmarked for higher honours since starring at schoolboy level and touring with the 2013 All Blacks to Europe as a non-playing “apprentice”.
He has made a late impact in all five Tests but coach Steve Hansen last week said a starting role would test the mettle of the Hurricanes dynamo.
Hansen says the flanker is relatively light for Test forward at 102kg and will probably need to beef up to become more effective, especially on defence.
His promotion creates room on the reserves bench for three-Test flanker Matt Todd, called into the squad when Cane was diagnosed.
Injury has forced another bench change, with Aaron Cruden (groin) making way for Lima Sopoaga.
Hansen has rarely altered his squad through the Rugby Championship and says he expects a fierce challenge from a Springboks side coming off two losses on the road.
“With South Africa having their backs to the wall, we know nothing but our best will be good enough. Accuracy with intensity will be paramount,” he said.
“Whilst we have been reasonably happy with our three games to date in the Rugby Championship, we are always striving for improvement.”
Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown.
ALL BLACKS BROTHERS TO PLAY TESTS TOGETHER
Brooke – Zinzan and Robin (39 tests, 1992-97)
Whetton – Alan and Gary (34, 1984-91)
Franks – Owen and Ben – (33, 2010-15)
Clarke – Don and Ian (18, 1956-63)
Meads – Colin and Stan (14, 1961-66)
Savea – Julian and Ardie (4, 2016)
Bachop – Graeme and Stephen (4, 1994)
Brownlie – Cyril and Maurice (3, 1924-25)
Nicholls – Harry and Mark (1, 1921)
Purdue – Charles and Edward (1, 1905)