It was billed as the master versus the apprentice and Sam Cane freely admits he learned plenty from Richie McCaw last weekend.
Only weeks after Chiefs' Cane made his first test start in a No7 jersey against Ireland at the same Waikato Stadium venue, he came up against incumbent McCaw in the 28-21 defeat by the Crusaders. Although his side came off second best on the scoreboard, 20-year-old Cane didn't concede too much ground to the All Blacks' skipper and said it was an extremely valuable experience.
"There's definitely stuff I've learned from that game and not just from one game, but looking at his and what he did to put me off a little bit or help his team out, so there's learnings from that," Cane said.
When asked how McCaw put him off, Cane replied: "The way he tends to slow ball down or niggle players and run their lines, just small adjustments that I can get better at myself.
"There's only one way to learn it and that's with experience."
McCaw, 31, showed the benefit of his more than a decade at the top level - in which he has played more than 100 tests and over a century of games for the Crusaders - in other ways too.
He was constantly in the ear of referee Steve Walsh, particularly where the scrums were concerned. Managing match officials, as well as his opponents, are all part of McCaw's game, and his work in the No7 jersey during the sometimes frantic match will ensure he retains it in his side's final round-robin match against the Force in Christchurch, even though No8 Kieran Read will be rested.
Cane, meanwhile, told of his soreness following the match in Hamilton which he said was of test match intensity.
"They were right up there, both of them," he said of the match compared with the Ireland test in which he played a starring role with two tries. "New Zealand players are some of the best in the world and a lot of them were on display on Saturday night so it was right up there."
Cane has rotated his playing time with Tanerau Latimer this season and was unsure whether Chiefs' coach Dave Rennie and forwards' boss Tom Coventry would start him against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night.
He said he would prefer to start every match but was happy to do what was best for the team. There is no doubt the careful managing of his playing minutes will help the wellbeing of a player seen as the next McCaw but he would love to test himself against a Hurricanes' loose trio of Jack Lam, Faifili Levave and Brad Shields who got the better of the Crusaders a fortnight ago. Their "jackal" work, or stealing turnovers at the ruck, was particularly effective.
"Their loosies are awesome jackalers, they get a lot of turnovers from the jackal. They bring great line speed as you saw against the Crusaders and they obviously got some pretty potent backs so they're a good all-round side."
The Chiefs need to win with a bonus point to ensure they qualify top of the table and a potential home final.
"We're definitely aware of it," Cane said. "First and foremost, we're going out there to win. You do that by scoring tries most of the time so hopefully it works out."
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick