Chiefs half-centurion calls for collective effort
Sam Cane is ready to take on long-time rival Michael Hooper when he celebrates his 50th Super Rugby match for the Chiefs in New Plymouth today.
But the All Blacks openside flanker said if the Chiefs were to combat Hooper and an in-form Waratahs team at the breakdowns it had to be a team effort.
The crucial breakdown area has become a major issue for the Chiefs this season as not only have opposition teams scrupulously analysed what the back-to-back champions are doing but referees have also been constantly on their case.
"[The ref] certainly had his eye on us [against the Hurricanes last Saturday] and it's something we've looked at this week because it hurts you and it's not the way we want to play, getting pinged like that," Cane said.
"We've looked at things that we've been doing and hopefully we won't be making the same mistakes this week, but as always it's a huge part of the game.
"Some of the things we were getting pinged for were just dumb, poor judgment by individuals, and some were just things we were trying to achieve but just didn't get them quite right so hopefully we've learnt from that."
Cane has been playing against in-form Wallabies open-sider Michael Hooper since they suited up against each other at the IRB Junior World Championship in Italy in 2011 and admitted it was going to be a real battle today.
"It's a collective effort though. Sometimes at the breakdowns the sevens go head to head but often it's the whole team that has to take care of a man like that and I suppose it comes down to our ball carriers getting gain line and getting fast ball back, which makes it harder for someone like him to get in there," Cane said.
He well remembers his debut for the Chiefs off the bench late in the game against the Lions at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, in 2011 and said he had been counting down to his 50th match since the end of last season.
"I finished that campaign on 40 and missed the first few at the start of the year but it's good to finally be able to bring it up."
But Cane knows his 50th game has to be special, not just for him but the whole Chiefs team if they are to beat the Waratahs and stay in the hunt for New Zealand Conference honours and the playoffs.
"We're in a place that to an extent we've been to before but it's a pretty critical part of our season that we get Saturday right.
"We know now there are a lot of people doubting us but the group we've got here, we've got to make sure we believe.
"We've done all the work during the week, but as we saw last week we had a good week within the camp but we didn't quite put it on the park on Saturday so it's about fronting up and putting it out there," Cane said.
To go into the international window when Super Rugby teams take a month-long break from playing with an emphatic win would be "huge", according to Cane.
"If we can put an exclamation mark on this game and do ourselves proud then we'll be able to rest easy for those three weeks and look forward to coming back and pushing for a title."