Rugby wheel turns full cycle for Sam Cane

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 It was four years ago, when aged 23, that he was chosen to captain the All Blacks for the first time, also against Namibia, an early acknowledgment of the qualities the selectors saw in him.

 

Four years on he was a lot more comfortable in his leadership style than he was back then, he said.

 

He had also recovered from his broken neck suffered a year ago in South Africa, he had played a lot of rugby since his return and his body was feeling good, he said.

 

Getting through tough times you liked to think you emerged stronger, he said. Structually he had two vertebrae fused which made them stronger than they were.

 

"It [his neck injury] was probably the most challenging time in my rugby career. It helped me appreciate the people in my life who helped me get through it and helped me appreciate how much I love rugby and how much I missed it and couldn't wait to get back playing," he said.

 

Having a professional career was about setting small goals and that had been his process after his injury, accomplishing them bit by bit until he got back out playing.

 

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen explained the relatively early selection of Cane as a captain in 2015.

 

"As a player he was always well down the road to showing us and telling us that he was good enough to be here.

 

"It was as a person and the character of Sam Cane that we were interested in as a leader, and as a young member of the team the decision was made to give him an opportunity to take the captain's band to further accelerate some of that learning.

 

"He's taken it with both hands, he's now a comfortable leader in the group, he captains his own franchise so he's developed well. He's like all of us, he's still learning," he said.

 

Hansen said the side had come through the Canada game with nothing more than bumps and bruises on players and have been able to continue with the planned selection process for the two games.

 

His interest in the running metres of Beauden Barrett which he mentioned in the press conference after the game, didn't eventuate as the GPS on players didn't work under the Oita Stadium roof. However, the humid and hot conditions the players performed in resulted in them being aware of the need to replace fluids after the game.

 

Cane, who didn't play in Oita, said the non-players experienced the conditions when helping the playing 23 warm-up for the game and the heat and humidity hit them straight away. It had taken about 20 minutes after they stopped to finally stop sweating, he said.

 

He was keen to get into action against Namibia on Sunday, the South African game felt like a long time ago and for him it would be 15 days since he played for 40 minutes in the opening game.

 

Hansen said the side didn't know as much about Namibia as they did about other teams because they weren't a team who featured a lot on television. They had watched their World Cup games and had come up with some strategies.

 

"Games like this, the key thing is about ourselves, how we turn up, what kind of attitude we have and intent and then going on the park and trying to execute the things we want to do so we wont' talk too much about Namibia at all really," he said.

 

Asked about the problems Tier Two nations faced, Hansen said it wasn't just a question of money, because if that was the case New Zealand Rugby didn't have a lot of money either when compared to some other rugby nations.

 

"It's about utilising the resources you do have and obviously some of the Tier Two nations could do with a little money to help that, but it's about talent and how you can grow your talent.

 

"It's not a coincidence that a lot of coaches around the world at the moment are New Zealanders and it's not a coincidence that we have a lot of talent back in New Zealand because the systems those coaches are coming out of are producing a lot of players.

 

"We don't have a lot of money so I don't think money is just the answer," he said.

 

"I think it's about education, I'm talking about rugby education, some natural talent through our bloodlines and I think our history as pioneers created people that want to be first and want to find a way when it gets tough, so I think all of those things mould you into the nation you become," he said.

 

Without resources to clear the land it all came down to work ethic and the country had taken that attitude into other industries and sports, he said.

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