Rugby: Prop making a statement

Highlanders prop Kane Hames, supported by No 8 Nasi Manu (left) carts the ball up at training at...
Highlanders prop Kane Hames, supported by No 8 Nasi Manu (left) carts the ball up at training at University Oval this week. Photo Gerard O'Brien.
Six months ago it was a case of Kane who.

But after an impressive debut year at Super rugby, everyone knows who Kane Hames is.

The loosehead prop, who this time last year was yet to play first class rugby, has missed just one game for the Highlanders this season, and that was when he picked up a rather unlucky suspension, for a charge on Blues lock Hayden Triggs.

Hames said he had really relished the season, although it was not over yet.

''I have gone OK. I have enjoyed it. Definitely enjoyed it,'' he said.

''It probably has not been as hard as I thought it would be. Rugby is rugby. I just had to change my mentality and Brad [injured Highlanders lock Brad Thorn] has helped me a lot with that.

''We were talking about that the other night. It is like I have taken a lot of the knowledge he has to offer, instead of waiting 20 years for all the stuff he has learned.''

Hames (25) was taken under Thorn's wing and the professionalism of the former Kangaroo and All Black has rubbed off on the barrel-chested prop.

''One of the things he talks about is making statements at trainings and game time. Probably at training, because we spend most of our time training, that is the one that has really helped me out. When I turned up here I didn't know what to do. These guys were my heroes. I was watching a lot of them play. At training I did not go as hard as possible. I would be quite respectful around contact areas.

''But he [Thorn] told me to drop that. He said make statements. Hit people that need to be hit. And that is the attitude I take into training. And because we train a whole lot more, I took that confidence into the game.''

He said that attitude was a real boost to playing in Super rugby.

''I found Super easier than ITM because in ITM Cup I still had that attitude of these are the guys that I have been watching for so long. But I changed that mentality.

''I am not walking on to the field nervous. I am not scared of anyone. I have a certain list of things I have to do during the week, my stretches, my extras. If I tick them all off then I am ready for the game. So I'm not second guessing my preparation. I know I have done it and I'm ready.''

Thorn and Hames are both Christians and he said his faith and rugby had common threads.

''The principles are exactly the same. Working hard, doing your best, listening to all your coaches. It is all the same.''

The Highlanders scrum had been performing well this season and faced another tough examination tonight against the Crusaders, Hames said.

''We have changed our style quite a lot this year . . . and we have forever been changing it. We are all working together. I think the new rules suit me more. The big boys used to love a big hit. Now it can suit shorter people and stronger people, not just the big ones.''

Hames, who has signed for the Highlanders next year, said his height - he is only 1.78m tall - had him thinking of playing hooker but former New Zealand Maori captain Errol Brain, who had coached him at club level, advised him against it and Hames followed that advice.

It is something he has not regretted and will go into tonight's match facing off against All Black prop Owen Franks.

The Highlanders are up against it in Christchurch tonight. They are without talisman Ben Smith and the Crusaders are stacked full of All Blacks.

But this has been a season where nothing straightforward has happened. The Highlanders must back themselves, take any chance that comes along and leave nothing on the park.

The weather is forecast to be dry but windy in Christchurch tonight.

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