Cane return would be 'huge'

Sam Cane at a Chiefs training session. Photo: Getty Images
Sam Cane at a Chiefs training session. Photo: Getty Images
The Blues are preparing for the possibility that Sam Cane will be included in the Chiefs squad to play them at Eden Park on Saturday.

It is a potential return Blues assistant coach Tom Coventry described as "huge".

Loose forward Cane has played no rugby since breaking his neck while representing the All Blacks against South Africa in Pretoria last October.

Should the 27-year-old be named in the Chiefs team for the derby match it will help the visitors' leadership enormously, not to mention the boost it will give their emotional levels in a game both sides need to win in order to stay in the hunt for a playoffs place.

"Sam's going really well and could be back this week or next week," Chiefs coach Colin Cooper today.

Responding to the news, Blues assistant coach Coventry, a former Chiefs assistant, said: "He'd be huge for them; the ex-captain coming back from a major injury. He's like Brodie [Retallick] – those two boys have been through the tough times and good times [at the Chiefs]. He brings leadership. He's tough and has high expectations of the team and of himself and will add real value to that team."

The Blues' 22-12 defeat to the Hurricanes was their fourth in succession and while many areas of their game are under the spotlight, one in particular is their leadership after halfback TJ Perenara's hugely dominant and persuasive performance.

Captain Perenara's effort was remarkable in that he played to an extremely high level while simultaneously keeping up a constant commentary of the game with referee Nick Briant.

It is something that few other captains could emulate – certainly, Blues co-captains Patrick Tuipulotu or Blake Gibson couldn't on the night – and while Briant eventually became annoyed at Perenara's queries, complaints and justifications, the official did nothing to stop it.

The value in Perenara's strategy was at its highest when the Hurricanes survived at least seven penalties in a row – five of which came from scrums - on their own line with the concession of only the sinbinning of tighthead prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen when a penalty try could have been awarded.

In the end, Perenara was telling Briant where the offside line was rather than vice-versa and afterwards the Blues could only shake their heads in admiration.

"There was some great gamesmanship to observe; TJ Perenara was marvelous at it, wasn't he?" Coventry said.

"He had us under real pressure at the back of the scrum and I think he was putting the referee under real pressure as well. And that's part of the game. You've got to be better at managing those moments than we were and he certainly put us under pressure and we didn't respond well enough.

"I think it's something you can learn. We certainly learned from him. He taught us a lesson in being honest the whole time, talking up the big moments, putting us under pressure with his talk, letting the referee know that he was in and around the offside line which was is pretty marginal but it was his talk and his experience and his confidence in what he was doing that led to him getting away with the pressure he was exerting on us."

Coventry admitted his side were "flustered" by it, and were now keen to build it into their own game, the prospect of which may dismay Saturday's referee Glen Jackson.

It's about pushing boundaries and learning what you can get away with, and while the Blues must be more patient on attack, and ruthless as well, they must also be smarter in playing the referee as well as the opposition.

"You just don't wake up in the morning and suddenly you're good in that particular part of the game," Coventry said. "All of those experienced players down at the Crusaders for example, they get through those tough moments. We've just got to build our guys up to the stage where we are confident in that area."

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