Bevan Sisson: Farewell Sam - you deserved better

We now know Sam Cane will be spending his remaining playing days at Suntory Sungoliath with his family in Japan.

But how will he be remembered back in New Zealand?

There seems to be an attitude here if you are not overly charismatic, don’t have a media friendly smile or in Sam’s case follow one of New Zealand and Canterbury’s greats in Richie McCaw, you are under even greater scrutiny.

Remember the days of another All Black captain in Reuben Thorne, who was constantly questioned by the media and public (outside of Canterbury) about his selection in the All Blacks?

Look at his career, representing the All Blacks from 1999-2007: He had four different coaches. They all can’t have been wrong. Yet he doesn’t get the recognition across the country he deserves because he beat his own drum and didn’t become a media darling.

Cane may have fallen into that category.

Following McCaw would always be tough, but Cane was in the All Blacks for 12 years, over two coaching groups, and ended up as captain. 

Take the constant negativity around him away and let’s look at facts. 

As a rugby player he was brutal in defence and could create multiple turnovers at the breakdown. 

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A great student of the game tactically, and incredibly tough, Cane came back from a severe neck fracture in 2018, a number of concussions, pectoral and shoulder injuries in 2021 and a severe back injury in 2023 before the World Cup. Yet he managed to have the mental strength to come back after all those setbacks, when many would have taken the retirement path.

During his time, people were constantly criticising his game, but you have to ask who else was better? Not just as good, but better. Over his tenure there was no one that demanded the 7 jersey should be theirs.

Recently Ardie Savea has shown he would be a force in any position in the back row, but then we needed him at 8.

Cane’s game against Ireland at the World Cup was a class above, but unfortunately, the red card in the final didn’t give him the finish to the tournament he and New Zealand craved.

Will we see Sam Cane in an ABs jersey again? I would like to think yes. No one deserves to get to 100 tests more than Cane (currently on 95) but those conversations would have already been decided and unless there is a series of injuries, his time may be done.

If he does fade away from the public eye, he should be remembered as humble, hard working and with a team-first attitude. So, I will raise a cold Waikato Draft in his honour this weekend and wish him and the family all the best.

Sayonara All Black 1113.

  • Sisson is a former player, representative coach and New Zealand age group selector