For his part, the highly capable 23-year-old loose forward prefers to look very much on the bright side of his role as understudy to probably the greatest All Black to have laced up a pair of the three stripes.
Cane, of course, is the second-ranked openside flanker in the All Blacks whose job is to back up Richie McCaw.
The All Blacks skipper is about to equal Brian O’Driscoll’s world record of 141 test caps in Sydney on Saturday, and for the vast majority of a career spanning 15 years he’s been an 80-minute All Black.
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES
Sam Cane understands the challenges and demands of playing behind the best there’s been in these All Blacks.
Over the last four years Cane has learned to appreciate both the ability and durability of the best No 7 the game has seen.
“It’s a unique situation,” Cane said in Auckland on Monday. “The opensides in this team behind Richie are the only ones who have experienced something like it. Mentally it’s a bit of a challenge but you’ve got to remind yourself how awesome it is to be here and make sure you’re always preparing to play because you just don’t know what can happen.”
Given that McCaw once played an entire World Cup on a broken foot, Cane has learned to be patient.
“You just roll with it every week and remind yourself, geez you’d rather be here than anywhere else. That’s not too hard,” he said with a grin.
The good news for Cane is McCaw is on his last lap of the track. But in the meantime he must stay as ready as he can be, just in case the unthinkable happens.
Of Cane’s 22 test appearances, 11 have been as a substitute. His best run as a starter was three straight against France in 2013 when McCaw was on sabbatical.
“Those chances are sometimes few and far between, and it’s definitely challenging. But in any team the captain more often than not starts every week and plays 80.”
That paucity of opportunities is why Cane was rapt to slip in 40 minutes for Bay of Plenty in a pre-season hitout against Auckland last Friday. After nearly six weeks between games he needed the run, and felt much better for it.
“It’s good during Super Rugby to get into bit of rhythm and play every week, and you get to a point where you need bit of a break. Then it’s that fine line of how much of a break before you actually need some game time.”
In terms of the Australian challenge this week, and the possibility they could go with twin opensides, Cane had a typically pragmatic view.
“Typically Aussie opensides are pretty good on the ball. We’re always aware of players who are good like that, but if we do our job right, ball carry well, and get our cleanout spot on then they’re not normally a problem.”
Leave a Reply