Marc Hinton: Kane Hames made mincemeat of me - or he thought he did
OPINION: I now have a fair idea what awaits Springboks tighthead Ruan Dreyer on Saturday night in Albany. Let it not be said that Kane Hames lacks confidence in himself and a bit of a killer instinct.
Early signs are promising for those with any concerns over the replacement All Black prop's ability to stand up to that South African examination in just his third appearance in the test arena.
The new All Blacks loosehead, who will start his first test in the famous black jersey at QBE Stadium, warmed up for the big occasion by making mincemeat of me at his Thursday press conference.
Or at least he felt he did, so that was the main thing.
My crime had been to describe him in a team story as a prop not "renowned" for his scrummaging. I never said he was not a good scrummager. Nor that he was not a very good one. Just not "renowned", which means known far and wide. Basically famous.
Given Hames has only played two tests off the bench as a replacement for the All Blacks (once last year, and again in Dunedin this year against the Wallabies), and been a peripheral squad figure at best until this week, I had figured his scrum prowess had yet to be known (or certainly proven) around the rugby world.
But I am clearly wrong. I know this because Kane Hames told me so. In no uncertain terms either.
"I read an article today that said I'm not a renowned scrummager, so when I'm not scrummaging I guess I'll just be trying to win the battle in the air and work on my speed in the outside channels," said Hames, looking firmly in my direction.
"My mindset in this environment is never about proving anyone wrong, it's about putting processes and systems in place to make sure everything goes right. I know your job is to write a whole lot of things. We've got to do a whole lot of research to make sure we get it right, and it would be great if you could too."
Hames' renown will certainly be growing now. Hopefully his understanding of the word too.
Of course, the proof will be in the pudding on Saturday night, but what is to be admired about the 29-year-old Chiefs prop is his self-confidence and aggression. He will likely need it against those gnarly Boks.
He's actually a fine story Mr Hames, with his perseverance and his stickability. I sincerely apologise if I've offended him. I swear I would say that even if he couldn't tear me limb from limb.
He is one of those neat old-fashioned tales of a late bloomer who has bided his time, worked through a serious knee injury, stuck his head down and his bum up and been rewarded with a chance that could grow into something much more substantial if he's as good as his word.
I like his moxy. And I like his attitude. A couple of years ago he didn't even have a Super Rugby contract at season start (largely because of his knee), but he has stuck at it, and become, well, quite good at what props do as their core task.
"He's a very good scrummager, very destructive. He's got a great ability to get around the park too," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen who also read my story, and inferred from it, wrongly, that he had been tagged a "poor" scrummager. "But his set-piece play is what we like about him. It's why he's here. First and foremost you've got to get your set piece right and you can build the rest."
Hames is just thankful to have landed once again in a culture he says is "pretty special ... they make you feel like you deserve to be here and make you feel you can perform when you need to.
"It's not intimidating at all. When you're on the outside and you make your goals, you have your dreams and you work towards wanting to be an All Black it's intimidating. But once you're in the environment it's probably the most special in the world. It's not an 'earn your place, boy' type mentality, it's you're here to perform and we trust you to perform."
On ya Kane.