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All Black Ardie Savea on faith, family and what the future holds

The All Black is tackling some big issues on his return from the World Cup.

By Sophie Neville
Growing up in a family that struggled to make ends meet wasn't always easy for All Black Ardie Savea. He remembers envying the kids at school who could afford to buy pies and sausage rolls for lunch, and he often wished his whānau had a car to take him to his early morning rugby games and training sessions.
Yet the rugby star says it was his parents' hard work and sacrifices that made him who he is today, teaching him the most valuable life lessons of all.
"I wouldn't change my upbringing for anything," says Ardie, 29, who grew up in Berhampore, Wellington, with parents Lina and Masina, and big brother Julian, also a Hurricanes player and former All Black.
"We didn't have much materially, but we had heaps of love and it's made me so grateful for everything I do have now. My mum and dad worked so hard, and made a lot of tough choices to better me and Jules' future, and I'll never forget that."
And now, the devoted dad-of-three is determined to help not only his own family, but his community too, teaming up with an innovative new digital charity platform, One Good Kiwi, which was launched at the start of the year by One New Zealand (formerly Vodafone).
Each year, the company donates $1.2 million, with app users voting for the charities they'd like to see the money channelled into.
"I feel really fortunate to have the platform I do, so I try to grab any chance I can to help spread the word and give the amazing people doing the mahi [work] in their communities a helping hand," says the world-class flanker, who has selected a "squad" of his own favourite charities, all geared towards helping Aotearoa's rangatahi (young people). "I think it's pretty cool to be able to help a bunch of charities at one time."
As dad to Kobe, five, Keeon, two and one-year-old Kove, Ardie admits it's not easy trying to teach children the importance of giving back, but it's something he's long been passionate about. Compared to his own childhood, his kids "have it all", and he and wife Saskia do their best to help them understand that not everyone is so fortunate.
At this year's campaign in France.
Ardie laughs when asked how life with three children is going, happily admitting the jump from two to three with the arrival of Kove in September last year has ramped family life up a gear.
"I'd describe having three kids as hectic, but also rewarding," he says. "Life is full – full of life and full of fun. But stressful too, I ain't gonna lie!"
He admits finding time to relax can be challenging, with he and Saskia still working out how to ensure they both get break times.
"I need alone time, like my time where I fill my cup," he says. "Faith is a big one for me, I like to read my Bible or listen to worship, and then I'm able to give my full self. So I'm still journeying through that with the kids and finding time, but I'm sure we'll get there."
Ardie is full of praise for Saskia, who he credits for holding down the fort during his long periods away with the Hurricanes and the All Blacks. The couple, who've been together since their teens and married for four years, approach life as a team, with Saskia running the home while Ardie continues his stellar rugby career. Together they also run fashion business Ardie Savea Clothing.
"Sas is the backbone of the family. For her to be able to be at home and allow me to chase my dream, and do the work and support our family, I'm really, really grateful and I tell her that every day."
Holding the Bledisloe Cup with brother Julian.
He loves arriving home after being away for the game, admitting the singular focus of rugby can be all-encompassing. Back home in Wellington, he has no choice but to switch off.
"I love the two worlds I live in," he says. "And spending time being busy with the kids is good because, for me, if I think about rugby too much, it does my head in."
But Ardie confesses it's got harder to leave the children as they get older and they don't always understand why Dad has to go away. Yes, they know he's an All Black, but that doesn't make the time apart any easier.
He says the fact he's well-known is also something to navigate for the family. When kids at Kobe's school point at him at drop-off, or come up to say hi, his daughter sometimes looks at him baffled as to how they know her dad. Keeon is obsessed with all things sport, though, and loves the fact his dad is a rugby player.
"The kids know what I do now and Keeon is super into it," tells Ardie, admitting that when he's out with them, he will sometimes gracefully decline photos with fans to ensure he's focusing on whānau.
"It's about putting aside family time and making sure that when I'm with the kids, it's all about them. I love the fans, though, and I appreciate the support, so it's a balancing act."

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