Rugby: TJ Perenara casts vote for Ardie Savea to become next All Blacks captain

  • 06/06/2024

Veteran halfback TJ Perenara has left no doubt about which horse he's backing in the race for the vacant All Blacks captaincy.

Sam Cane's impending test retirement has opened the door for a new All Blacks leader, as incoming head coach Scott Robertson begins building the foundations for his maiden World Cup cycle.

Thursday's confirmation of Scott Barrett's recommitment to NZ Rugby through until 2027 has sparked further discussion about his candidacy, with the Crusaders lock widely expected to be one of the frontrunners for the position.

Barrett's primary competition comes from World Cup vice-captain Ardie Savea, who - albeit unsurprisingly - earned the nod from his long-time Hurricanes teammate at the base of both the Hurricanes and All Blacks scrum.

"I would," said Perenara, when asked if he's like to see Savea named captain.  

"He's arguably the best player in the world. He's a really good friend of mine. I've seen the leadership he has within the environments I've been in with him. I was in the team when he captained the All Blacks for a while when we were overseas.

TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea.
TJ Perenara and Ardie Savea. Photo credit: Getty Images

"His leadership in that and [the Hurricanes] environment and what he did for our group is amazing."

Savea missed the Hurricanes' run to the top of the Super Rugby Pacific ladder this season, opting instead for a sabbatical in Japan. He's expected to be back in New Zealand and available for selection for the July tests against England and Fiji.

Perenara is the second prominent All Black to register his vote for Savea, after flanker Dalton Papali'i last month admitted he'd like to see his loose forward cohort awarded the promotion, when Robertson reveals his first All Blacks squad on June 24.

The 80-test international balanced his opinion by adding Barrett would also make a worthy All Blacks captain.

"Scott's a hell of a player," Perenara said. "He has respect from a lot of the team.

"As someone who's won seven Super Rugby titles and had a lot to do with the Crusaders leadership group, he clearly leads their environment really well.

"So, there's two clear candidates."

Speaking after extending his deal with NZR on Thursday, Barrett confessed he's keen to reprise the partnership he and Robertson shared with the Crusaders, where their captain/coach combination led to a slew of Super Rugby titles.

"It's something I'd be open to, but my focus right now is to get out on the park," said Barrett, who's recovering from a back injury which curtailed his Super Rugby Pacific campaign this year. 

"It would be a huge honour. Those decisions are fully on Razor (Scott Robertson) and we've had conversations around the All Black environment, but ultimately the decision sits with him."

The All Blacks begin their international season against England in Dunedin on July 6.