Sam Cane shrugs off reports of his disappearance, ready to lead All Blacks turnaround
Much like famous American author Mark Twain, Sam Cane was somewhat bewildered by reports of his disappearance. It’s fair to say that the All Blacks skipper feels there are still a few chapters to write in his story.
Cane made headlines after the All Blacks’ training session on Tuesday at the Ingwenyama Conference and Sport Resort, just outside Mbombela, where Saturday’s opening match of the Rugby League against the champions will be played of the Springbok world. It’s the first of back-to-back clashes between the two great rivals who have the potential to make or break this faltering New Zealand group.
Cane and his All Blacks staggered, rather than boasted, in this opener to the competition. The 2-1 series loss at home to Ireland in July – the first such setback in 28 years – means the New Zealanders have now lost four of their last five Tests. It is a race, if not unprecedented, certainly rare, and it has not been without consequence.
Foster discusses the dismissals of John Plumtree and Brad Mooar, and his own position with the All Blacks.
Assistant coaches John Plumtree and Brad Mooar were both fired following the Irish series. But Cane survived, despite several reports to the contrary before the Rugby Championship squad was announced. Head coach Ian Foster too, although his grip may be tenuous if the words of his New Zealand Rugby boss are to be believed.
Cane and Foster have both suffered badly following a disappointing run that followed an equally disappointing end to the 2021 campaign. Some of them were fair, and some not so much as the two most Influencers in the setup felt the brunt of public and media backlash.
So, Things must have asked as Cane raced to the touchline to meet the group of animated reporters at the end of the All Blacks’ first full practice kick of the week: how the hell is he after all he’s been copped since the Ireland collapse?
“I’m fine,” said Cane, who understandably looked a bit concerned. “The key is to not engage or read articles or stuff online, and focus on your close group of friends and teammates. As long as they support you and believe in you, and you believe in yourself, then you’re in pretty good shape.
“It’s probably harder sometimes for loved ones. But I was all good. When we walk into our work, it’s almost like we’re in our own little bubble, just focusing on getting it right.
There is a lot to do. After being dominated by Ireland and France on back-to-back weekends last November, the All Blacks opened 2022 in much the same way. .
The coaches took their share of the blame, and some paid for their work. But a consistent message this week from all the All Blacks out to face the media focused on the need for players to take ownership of this situation.
Cane wasn’t about to break ranks on this.
“Whenever you don’t get the result you’re looking for, the first thing you do is look in the mirror and watch your own performance. When you get to that level, players are always going to look at themselves and see what they could have done better, rather than looking outside.
“There have been some adjustments within the coaching staff which should hopefully help, but no doubt some of us have to step in on the pitch.”
Improvement, adjustment, rejuvenation… call it what you will, it’s a must as the All Blacks head into back-to-back Tests against a Boks side who won’t need a second invitation to expose remaining weaknesses.
“We know what we’re going to get,” added Cane who won eight of his nine Tests against the big foe. “It’s a physical and confrontational battle. Just look at the pictures – big men running around the corner, running hard, cleaning hard, and some of the skill and speed in midfield and outside backs is on par with the best in the game. world. They are the complete package.
The last time the All Blacks played in South Africa, they beat the Boks 32-30 in Pretoria in a game Cane will never forget. He broke his neck that afternoon and fully understands how close he came to something far more serious than what happened.
“In the first half, we played for about 46-47 minutes, and you get to half-time and you have a little voice in the back of your head that says, ‘Holy smoke, how are we going to get through. the second half?’ But you do. You dig deep. These are the test matches that challenge you and you absolutely have to give it your all.
“I love playing the Springboks.”
Like Cane this afternoon in Pretoria, these All Blacks are beaten down, but not eliminated. They would love nothing more than to defy reports of their impending demise.